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Arkansas Research Alliance: The Next 10 Years

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The Arkansas Research Alliance celebrated its 10th anniversary of funding and accelerating research in April this year. Founded in 2008 by President and CEO Jerry Adams following his retirement from Acxiom in October of 2007, “ARA invests in research that stimulates innovation, encourages collaboration and strengthens economic opportunity,” according to the organization website.

The Arkansas Research Alliance’s stated focus has, since its inception, been to further opportunities for the scientific and industrial communities in Arkansas. According to the “Strategic Focus” section of the ARA website, “Our investments accelerate economic growth and collaboration among five Arkansas research universities and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR). The outcomes of these partnerships leads to increased innovation and economic stimulation.”

But how did the ARA first come about? Adams served as chair of Accelerate Arkansas, which is a volunteer group with the purpose of increasing Arkansas’ “per-capita personal income to the U.S. average by 2020,” according to the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation website, and according to the ARA site, still serves on the executive committee. Adams said the idea for the ARA began while he was chair.

Following his retirement from a 34-year career with Acxiom, “ I was approached about starting ARA and I jumped at the opportunity,” Adams said.

ARA is currently partnered with the following five Arkansas universities: University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and Arkansas State University, according to the website. They are also partnered with the National Center for Toxicological Research, an FDA Center that performs research on development of tools and approaches for FDA use.

ARA’s current and future work will be closely aligned with the goals of the entities they partner with, Adams said.

“Our work is closely aligned with the tempo and strategic planning of our university partners as well as our research work with our federal laboratory partner,” he said.

Adams emphasized the importance of the organizations ARA is partnered with in the advancement of state interests. “ARA’s progress and success is a derivative of the success of our member universities and our relationship with NCTR – it is their progress that is critical to the future of Arkansas,” he said.

Adams hopes to see the ARA have a positive influence over the state’s economy in the near future.

Over the next five to ten years, “the maturing of the ARA Academy and the innovative research talent represented in it along with targeted funding will have a major impact on the Arkansas economy,” Adams said.

He is looking forward to what the ARA will be doing in the future. “It has taken us 10 years to get to where we are today – but there are very exciting ‘miles to go’ ahead of us,” he said.

The Arkansas Research Alliance will continue to work and move forward as it has. According to an ARA press release, “The next ten years will see the Academy grow steadily and purposefully and ARA continue to foster scientific collaboration while injecting more research into the Arkansas economy.”

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