Blockchain and the future of innovation

Partnership for Economic Innovation launches Arizona Blockchain Applied research Center to continue growth and innovation in Arizona

Cody Kimmel



Cody Kimmel



Blockchain is about possibility. 

It is the kind of innovation that opens the door to what was otherwise impossible before. And, like the advent of electricity, we are just scratching the surface of what it can do.

Arizona has a history of public/private partnership to both improve its quality of life and drive its economy forward. From water to electricity to transportation, Arizona’s economy and infrastructure has been built on collaboration. 

With the Arizona Blockchain Applied Research Center (AZ BARC), that collaboration continues. The impetus behind the AZ BARC is simple. Industry leaders, researchers, and legislation want to intentionally apply blockchain research to create usable products for a global market.

But there is a deeper, broader desire in it all. AZ BARC hopes that through their research and innovation, they can find solutions to the most vexing and complex digital security questions. In other words, it wants to make the world more equitable, secure, and healthy. 

As Kathleen Lee, Director of Applied Research at the Partnership for Economic Innovation, says, “Industries from finance to medicine to government are realizing the benefits of blockchain technology and are searching for ways to integrate it into their operational structures.” 

Blockchain is about encoding the future with what is possible.

PEI sees AZ BARC as one more way Arizona can grow economically

AZ BARC, along with the WearTech Applied Research Center, the Connective, and Pipeline AZ are all part of a concerted effort to move the Arizona economy forward in a way that is not only dependent on tourism and construction.

Following a detailed report in 2015, it became apparent that without intentional effort and organized collaboration, Phoenix was poised to fall behind an economy driven by tech and applied research. Though tourism, construction and other hard manufacturing will always be an important part of Arizona’s economy, tech innovation is the primary driver of the future economy. 

In the last six years, the Partnership for Economic Innovation has worked to drive long term economic growth in Arizona by: 

  • Catalyzing innovation initiatives
  • Cultivating strategic partnerships and investments
  • Creating a culture of forward thinking collaboration 

The Arizona Blockchain Applied Research Center is its newest effort, a collaboration of industry leaders, ASU, and PEI, and it is already making waves in defining the new possible.

Arizona and the next wave of the internet

Wes Gullet, Operations Director for Applied Research Centers at PEI, believes Arizona is in the perfect position to become the leader in industry-led applied research. Wes says, “We want Phoenix, Arizona to be the blockchain capital of the U.S, because blockchain is going to be a fundamental element of the next digital revolution.”

An Arizona resident for 35 years, Wes surveyed the economic landscape and noticed a gap. “One of the things that was missing in the current economy,” Wes shares, “is the R and D aspects of industry. So what we're trying to do is create that research and development portfolio for our community's economic toolkit, and be able to make sure that we have all the aspects of a growing economy.”

Wes believes applied blockchain research is an essential next step for the digital transformation to fully take place. Like the WearTech Applied Research Center, AZ BARC is an opportunity to not just talk about the implications of blockchain on industry, but to actually show policy makers, investors, and the general public that blockchain can actually work to improve everyday lives. 

Dragan Boscovic, Research Director at Arizona Blockchain Applied Research Center and research professor at ASU’s School of Computer Science and Augmented Intelligence, has had a long career at the forefront of innovative tech. As blockchain came into the tech world ten years ago, he quickly recognized the significance it would have for the digital economy. 

“Blockchain is the next wave of the internet,” Dragan says. Although its initial use was in developing cryptocurrency, Dragan sees its possibilities far beyond its initial use. To Dragan, it’s a matter of if’s. “What if we can use blockchain to secure our IT infrastructure? What if we can use blockchain to enhance data privacy? What if we can use blockchain to enhance transparency of our governments?”

For Dragan and Wes, AZ BARC is not only an essential part of Arizona’s economy, but the global digital infrastructure. It is how the digital economy gains enough security, privacy, and authority to bring the internet out of the Wild West of its infancy and into its full potential. 

Making Arizona a household name in innovation

In the global economy, Arizona has the chance to be a household name for innovation, forward thinking, and economic competitiveness. 

There is a spirit of collaboration baked into the Arizona way. It was essential for survival when it was founded, and it is essential still today. For Arizona to remain an economic leader, it must continue to bring its best assets together. Through AZ BARC’s unique public/private partnership and industry-led approach, the best of Arizona can become even better. 

There can sometimes be a disconnect between theoretical blockchain research and the real world demands of the market. AZ BARC connects research to targeted needs of industry. By allowing industry leaders like Intel, Kudelski Security, Early Warning Services, Bard Peripheral, and Movemedical to define marketplace needs, AZ BARC can focus on research that will truly improve Arizona’s economic capabilities. 

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