Eric Smith ’12 sees himself as a bridge-builder between institutions such as the UA — with its vast technological promise — and businesses or governments hoping to collaborate. His official title is business development manager for Tucson-based tech company Aztera. Among other things, Aztera’s staff of mechanical, electrical, and software engineers creates prototypes for tech entrepreneurs and top national companies.
“In 2013, I was contacted by the city of Tucson’s economic development office, which was interested in developing projects with the UA’s Tech Launch Arizona,” Smith says. Tech Launch was established in 2011 to shepherd commercially viable campus breakthroughs into the marketplace.
The city wanted Tech Launch’s help in developing a network of locally based tech experts and business leaders to nurture emerging technologies and promote job growth. It also sought a private-sector partner as a go-between. “We were selected as the partner,” Smith says, “and I was picked as the individual who would represent this partnership.”
Smith calls it a win-win for advancing Tucson’s tech industry with the UA as a partner. In the past, “tech development was often something that was done outside the University or not done at all. Turning that around has become key to the success of Tech Launch.” Now that energy will be corralled by the city as well. “The idea,” he says, “is that down the road these jobs are going to land in Tucson. We have such talented people with amazing ideas out there. But they don’t know where to go with those ideas.”
And that is about to change.