Skysong Innovations’ Economic Impact in Arizona

When people hear about a university whose innovation hub has generated 120 start-up companies, created over 1,300 jobs, paid $73.2 million to its workers, brought more than $130 million to its home state and catapulted its host university to top the list of America’s most innovative schools, they may think of an institution like Harvard, Johns Hopkins or Duke. Yet outranking all these schools in technology transfer—and surpassing all U.S. schools in innovation for two years running—is Arizona State University, aided by its flagship entrepreneurial arm, Skysong Innovations. 

Skysong Innovations provides ASU’s students and researchers the resources required to turn their discoveries into patents and transform those patents into businesses with a profound local and global impact. Since 2003, Skysong Innovations has enabled ASU to evolve from an untapped wealth of ingenuity to a comprehensive research university. From the discoveries advanced and technologies developed at ASU, Skysong Innovations has spun out dozens of Arizona-based companies that have revolutionized the medical, environmental and digital industries and advanced the lives of the communities they serve.

Skysong Innovations by the Numbers

Last year, experts at the William Seidman Research Institute measured Skysong Innovations’ 2016 and 2017 statewide economic impact. Their results, which included projections for the future, were staggering. Seidman evaluated Skysong Innovations and ASU’s joint impact using the widely-accepted IMPLAN input-output model, which is well known in Arizona and has been used and tested by national researchers over a wide range of projects for several years. Its metrics accounted for Skysong Innovations and its affiliated companies’ discrete and aggregate contributions to gross state product, labor income, job growth and state and local tax revenues.

Of initial note was the sheer scope of Skysong Innovations growth. The initiative’s economic benefit to Arizona has increased markedly every year; in 2017 alone, Skysong Innovations-linked companies raised $50 million in external funding. Skysong Innovations itself, which directly employs 17 workers, generated a two-year economic impact of 93 job-years (the number of years worked per worker), $11.3 million in gross state product (the dollar value of all goods and services produced for final purchase in Arizona), $9.3 million in labor income (the total dollar value of employee and proprietor income and benefits), and $1.2 million in state and local tax revenues. With the exception of tax revenue, which remained constant, all these values also increased between 2016 and 2017. 

Other ASU-linked companies showed similar rates of growth. These 36 businesses contributed 2,509 job years to Arizona employees, earned $240 million in GSP, paid workers $162 million, and provided the state $21.8 million in revenues.

Locally Invested, Globally Inspired

In all cases, however, it’s worth noting that however locally invested they remain, these companies’ missions extend far beyond Arizona’s borders. Take HealthTell, whose early detection of diseases through patients’ unique immunosignatures—analyzed via a single drop of blood—came out of a $30.7 million Defense Department grant to develop diagnostics capable of protecting U.S. military against bioterrorism. 

Skysong Innovations' enterprises also include patenting and licensing discoveries that are only just getting their sea legs. Its resources have enabled nascent technologies—like Videssa Breast—to move from ASU’s lab room to Provista Diagnostics’ boardroom to hospital exam rooms, where Professors Karen Anderson and Joshua LaBaer’s groundbreaking blood test can improve early breast cancer detection and augment the accuracy of abnormal or unclear mammograms.  

Like the ideas, companies and communities it serves, the best seems yet to come for Skysong Innovations.

To evaluate the initiative’s potential five-year impact, Seidman devised three hypothetical growth scenarios. Anticipating 15% overall growth, Skysong and its affiliates are projected to net $995.7 million in GSP, add 10,409 job-years, provide $672 million in labor income and $90.5 million for state and local revenues. In two of Seidman’s three growth scenarios, Skysong Innovations is also expected to reach a cumulative total GSP of $1 billion within 7 years.