The Arkansas Research Alliance, a group pledged to “accelerate economic development and cultivate a vibrant knowledge-based economy in Arkansas” has officially formed.
An independent study to assess current and potential university-based innovation in Arkansas will be the first order of business for ARA.
In 2007, the Arkansas legislature approved the appropriation of start-up operational funding for the ARA from the state’s general improvement fund, according to a statement from the group. Funding was authorized through the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority.
Jerry Adams, ARA president and CEO, also has launched a public-private partnership that focuses on university-based research and provides Arkansas with confidence for progress.
"Research is a cornerstone on which we can build Arkansas’s future in the knowledge-driven economy of the 21st century," Gov. Mike Beebe said in the statement. "Innovation and education will develop high-paying, technology-based jobs at home while also attracting existing high-tech companies to our state.”
The ARA is governed by a 15-member board of trustees comprised of five chancellors from Arkansas research universities and 10 CEOs from across the state.
The ARA board members are:
Chairman, Hugh T. McDonald, president and CEO, Entergy
Dr. Joel Anderson, chancellor, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Richard Bond, President and CEO, Tyson Foods
Bruce Burrow, principal, MBC Holdings
Dr. Lawrence Davis, chancellor, University of Arkansas Pine Bluff
Claiborne Deming, President and CEO, Murphy Oil Corporation
Ed Drilling, president, AT&T
Scott Ford, president and CEO, Alltel
Dr. David Gearhart, chancellor, University of Arkansas Fayetteville
Tommy May, chairman and CEO, Simmons First National
Marla Johnson-Norris, CEO, Aristotle
Dr. Robert Potts, chancellor, Arkansas State University
Robert Shoptaw, CEO, Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield
Kirk Thompson, president and CEO, J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc.
Dr. I. Dodd Wilson, chancellor, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
(Editor’s note: Richard Bond is no longer the president and CEO of Tyson Foods. Likewise, Claiborne Deming is no longer the president and CEO of Murphy Oil Corp. Also, as of Jan. 9, Alltel Corp. will no longer exist.)
The ARA commissioned study to assess university-based innovation in Arkansas is scheduled to be complete by the end of the year. The study is being conducted by Battelle, the world’s largest non-profit independent research and development organization.
Goals of the study, according to ARA, are to determine “core research competencies that have the best potential for creating jobs,” and to identify “strategic focus areas that have the greatest potential to incubate and launch businesses.”
We recognize that developing a knowledge-based economy in Arkansas is a long-term goal – and one that requires focus and leadership,” said ARA chief Adams.
The Arkansas Research Alliance was established several years ago through the work of Accelerate Arkansas, a statewide volunteer network of business and education leaders pursuing the goal of closing the gap in per capita income between Arkansas and the remainder of the U.S.
Accelerate Arkansas recommended five core strategies: Support job-creating research; Develop risk capital that is available for all stages of the business cycle, especially the funding gap; Encourage entrepreneurship and accelerated new enterprise development; Increase the education level of Arkansans in science, technology, engineering and math; and sustain successful existing industry through advancing technology and competitiveness.
The ARA was established to help achieve the strategy of supporting job-creating research and is modeled after the successful Georgia Research Alliance (GRA). The GRA is credited with advancing Georgia’s reputation for being an academic center for discovery and invention, according to the ARA statement. In 17 years, the GRA has created thousands of high-paying jobs and achieved a number of major advances in science, medicine and technology.