Tech Launch Arizona gets in on the ground floor of the University's newest tech park

Tech Launch Arizona gets in on the ground floor of the University's newest tech park

By Jason GroundUniversity Communications
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Tech Launch Arizona is the premier tenant at The Refinery, the first building at the University's second tech park.
Tech Launch Arizona is the premier tenant at The Refinery, the first building at the University's second tech park.
Tech Launch Arizona will occupy a large section of the first floor at The Refinery.
Tech Launch Arizona will occupy a large section of the first floor at The Refinery.
Tech Launch Arizona will occupy a large section of the first floor at The Refinery.
Tech Launch Arizona will occupy a large section of the first floor at The Refinery.

Tech Launch Arizona knows a thing or two about the importance of getting in on the ground floor of a new opportunity. That's why the technology commercialization office jumped at the chance to become the first tenant at The Refinery, located at the University of Arizona Tech Park at The Bridges.

TLA moved into the four-story office building in mid-April after nearly 10 years in the University Services Annex on Sixth Street at the edge of downtown Tucson.

"The idea is for The Refinery to be a commercialization hub for the University, where individuals and companies from many disciplines can come together in a kind of collision space to advance University innovation," said Doug Hockstad, assistant vice president for Tech Launch Arizona. "It also serves as an access point for industry to connect with the University in many ways."

Built by the Utah-based Boyer Co., The Refinery offers 120,000 square feet of office space, geared for small to midsize tech-focused organizations. It sits near the southern edge of the 65-acre Tech Park at The Bridges – near East 36th Street and South Kino Parkway – within the larger, 350-acre, multi-use development that includes residential and retail elements.

The University committed to occupy 50% of The Refinery's space, with the University of Arizona Applied Research Corp. expected to be the next unit to move in, occupying half of the top floor. Other University tenants will include an incubator outpost of the University's Center for Innovation, the Division of Research, Innovation & Impact, Arizona Online, and the College of Applied Science and Technology. Other space will be available for startups or established firms looking to connect and work with the University.

Tech Launch Arizona worked with The Refinery's architects to customize the first-floor space.

"We had a lot of say into what kinds of spaces we needed and what would be most conducive to the way we work as a team. And we contributed to designing the space to be optimally functional," said Paul Tumarkin, assistant director for marketing and communications. "We created a nice, big interactive classroom for things like our I-Corps program and a special open space for our mentors-in-residence to work as a team."

Operating in a new space and in person – after two years of working remotely – already is paying off for TLA's mission.

"Commercialization of University innovation is a full-contact sport," Hockstad said. "We need to be out there, creating personal relationships with both our researchers and businesses. The world's changed forever, and remote work will be part of how we operate from now on. But it's still important, and more invigorating, to meet in person. Nothing can replace human interaction."

Opening more space for innovators at The Bridges couldn't come at a better time for Tech Parks Arizona, which also oversees operations on behalf of the University at the 27-year-old UA Tech Park off Interstate-10 and Rita Road and the Center for Innovation in Oro Valley, both of which report 100% occupancy.

President Robert C. Robbins had a vision for The Bridges, and for The Refinery, said Carol Stewart, associate vice president for Tech Parks Arizona. "He really wants this to be the commercialization hub for the University. He sees this as the center of the ecosystem and a location to bring together the players from both the University and private sector."

To achieve that, it was important to have Tech Launch Arizona move to The Refinery, she added.

"And they were all in from day one, with Doug texting me every week, 'When are we getting in there? We want to get in there.'"

While TLA prepares to welcome new neighbors to The Refinery, the building should have more company soon as well. A 126-room Marriott hotel will open later this year at Kino Parkway and Tucson Marketplace Blvd., followed by a purpose-built research facility, the Mission Integration Lab which will feature a tall, hangar-like "high bay," conducive for work on instruments, telescopes, and high-altitude balloon payload projects. Another entity planning to move off campus, Arizona Public Media, is raising funds to build a new, $45 million facility at the north end of the UA Tech Park at The Bridges, across 36th Street from the Quincie Douglas Public Library.

Interested in checking out TLA's new space at The Refinery? Contact Tumarkin at pault@tla.arizona.edu to schedule a visit.

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