AURP celebrates 35th Anniversary at Innovation Elevated -AURP’s International Conference at the University of Utah Research Park

For everyone who attended AURP’s 2021 International Conference (IC2021) in Salt Lake City last month (Oct. 18-21), it may not be hyperbole to say this first AURP in-person gathering in two years soared as high as the Wasatch Mountains. 

With our gracious and absolutely welcoming hosts – Jonathon Bates and his team from the University of Utah Research Park – our IC2021 conference attendees (both in-person and virtual) every day showed the energy, dynamism and dedication our community of innovation has always demonstrated.

In our session, “Reimagining The 21st Century Research Park,” Perkins & Will's Geeti Silwal said it just right as an encapsulation of what we do: "You want to work toward embracing the community and the community embracing you back while keeping the focus on research, technology and the economy." 
HR&A Advisors’ Bob Geolas, in the same session, also said it well: "There's never been a more exciting time to be involved in this kind of work. It's about how we create dynamic environments that bring the best of science and technology with the arts, humanities, culture – it's about creating more robust environments and community."

All told, our IC2021 conference is a welcome and robust return to face-to-face programing with over 280 registrants, more than 80 speakers/moderators, 72 sponsors, four full tours and countless individual and group networking and interactions – whether in one of our session rooms, one of our plenary sessions or while enjoying a night on the town in Salt Lake City.

As we all reinforced over the course of the pandemic, scientific research and development of innovation that saves lives is more vital than ever. 

This is just one reason why research parks and innovation districts – physical communities of innovation – are key to driving a future of prosperity in communities in Utah, the US and around the world. One of many IC2021 conference highlights that support this idea was our University of Utah Encounter. 

With a beautiful fall day (that indeed became more fall-like as the day progressed) for our Encounter, our group visited with key leaders of ARUP Laboratories who gave us an expert tour of their truly state-of-the-art operations in the University of Utah Research Park campus. 

We all came away with a sense of awe not just with learning how ARUP has grown over the years but the role the organization has played in antibody testing during the pandemic, helping to stop the spread of the virus. In addition to conducting molecular diagnostic testing, ARUP also developed two IgG serology tests that became available last year. 

We also toured Myriad Genetics, a leading genetic testing and precision medicine company also located on the University of Utah Research Park campus, and experienced its phenomenal facility built for sustainability first. Myriad’s welcoming, employee-centric workspace and its beautiful Research Park campus footprint are viable models for new developments across the country.

With our next stop the stunning Red Butte Garden, nestled in the foothills on the Research Park campus, we heard and engaged with three of Utah’s leading innovators and entrepreneurs – Marcus Gerhardt, Tina Larson, Kirk Ririe and Kelvyn Cullimore – who talked openly about Utah’s Secret Sauce for innovation, new business formation and economic dynamism.

To be sure, there was no better way to cap the day than to gather at the equally compelling Natural History Museum of Utah (with no better views of the valley) to host our AURP 35th Anniversary Celebration & Annual Awards of Excellence in Innovation.  Along with all of our honorees, we’re especially glad to have named the Oklahoma City Innovation District, led by Katy Boren, as our 2021 Outstanding Innovation District Award honoree. 

And finally, in concluding IC2021, we were delighted to host our inaugural AURP Space Day Conference, “Building Space & Aerospace Communities on the Ground,” giving us the opportunity to spotlight the fast-growing public and private-sector space industry. We applied a laser-like focus
on the entrepreneurial dynamism of regional, local and state space hubs in Alabama, Arizona, Maryland, New Mexico and Oklahoma in addition to hearing more from the first galactic research park and AURP member, the International Space Station – US National Lab.

All told, we’re beyond grateful to our hosts, the University of Utah Research Park and it’s amazing team, and to all of our generous and supportive AURP Sponsors for helping Vickie, Diana and me make IC2021 a success. Thank you. 

And we thank all of our attendees, speakers and moderators for helping us make “Innovation Elevated.” We also owe a special thanks to Wexford Science & Technology’s Tom Osha for hosting The Commons podcast (all episodes available wherever you get your podcasts) with expert interviews and dialogue with a number of our AURP attendees.

And now, put on your new AURP IC2022 tuques, and we’ll see you next September in Toronto (Sept. 19-23, 2022)!