Ann Arbor SPARK’s mission is to advance the economy of the Ann Arbor region by establishing it as a desired place for innovation, business location, and growth — as well as a place for talented people to live and work.
Sounds like a hyper-local focus, right?
Actually, while SPARK does serve as a catalyst for growth in the Ann Arbor region, economic development and becoming one of the biggest tech ecosystems in the country requires a great deal of collaboration — including collaboration with international innovation centers and science parks. Indeed, Ann Arbor SPARK is a global organization.
Paul Krutko, president and CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK is the immediate past chair of the board for the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (IASP), and as such emphasizes the importance of SPARK maintaining a global footprint. One of the ways in which the organization increases its visibility and presence worldwide is by participating in and hosting international delegations.
SPARK’s participation in these international delegations is intended to encourage international companies and organizations to locate here, as well as to form global, collaborative partnerships.
Delegations and Partnerships
Ann Arbor SPARK has hosted delegations from around the world, including the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Germany, and more. In 2016, SPARK hosted Navya (a French mobility company) as part of a delegation from France. As a result of that visit, Navya opened an assembly facility in Saline in 2017. They worked with SPARK to bring on local talent, ran a pilot with the University of Michigan, and continue to develop advanced mobility vehicles and technologies, as well as contribute to the health of our local economy.
SPARK participates in another international collaboration called the Transatlantic Automated Driving Alliance (TADA). TADA is a collaborative program between AMZ Saxony in Dresden, Germany, and SPARK, which seeks to create a network that connects U.S. and German companies, organizations, and research institutes with each other around the focus of automated, connected, and emerging vehicle technologies. In 2021, an autonomous street sweeper project was launched under the TADA program bringing together Michigan organizations like American Center for Mobility and New Eagle with German companies like Faun, Naventik, and FusionSystems. The project is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Research and Education and Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The autonomous street sweeper completed a successful progress demonstration in January 2022.
While the COVID-19 pandemic put delegation travel on hold, in 2022 restrictions have eased and international activities have resumed. This spring SPARK hosted delegations from the Netherlands, a science and technology park in Hungary, and a group from Arexpo who looked to SPARK for inspiration as they are developing an innovation district in Milan, Italy. This summer, as part of a coworking agreement, SPARK will have a member of innovation park La Salle Technova Barcelona working with the team at SPARK from July through October.
A Global Name in Innovation
Despite the Midwest often being labeled as ‘flyover country,’ Ann Arbor continues to attract the attention of international companies, partners, and talent. Ann Arbor SPARK’s support of and collaboration with international partners and businesses ensure continued investment and jobs in our region and further growth of our local economy.