With the dire global financial outlook, young entrepreneurs nurtured by universities could be the driving force to yank the world back to economic vitality, Ireland President Mary McAleese said Monday.
“The young people will take the lead,” she said. “In this moment, we need people who are not paralyzed by what’s in front of us, but who are energized (by it).”
McAleese was touring SkySong, Arizona State University’s partially completed technology park under development in south Scottsdale, with ASU president Michael Crow and other local and international dignitaries.
Many of SkySong’s programs and start-up companies are joint ventures with Dublin City University.
The Irish president swerved into Arizona for a day in the middle of her mostly California-focused U.S. visit to celebrate the collaboration between the two universities and seek out new opportunities to team up, said Grainne Mooney, the president’s press secretary.
McAleese stopped along the tour to chat with budding business leaders.
SkySong denizen Murat Karatas, who started his business LiveLanguages.com last year while he was an ASU Master of Business Administration student, said he learned from fellow students in Dublin how to market to European customers. He changed his business model as a result of the ocean-spanning advice.
“This is really important for companies like ours with a global focus,” Karatas said.
Matt McGraw, an ASU student and president of emusicinstruction.com, said he, too, hopes to move into European markets. Meeting McAleese was especially exciting, he said.
“It was a real treat as a third generation Irish (descendent),” McGraw said.
Dublin City University president Ferdinand von Prondzynski, who accompanied McAleese, said the world won’t exit the recession without the efforts of university incubators, which encourage and help fund student entrepreneurs like McGraw and Karatas. He said many of the Dublin school’s discoveries have been fleshed out at ASU.
“This partnership is making significant differences on both sides (of the Atlantic),” he said.
On the horizon is a three-pronged collaboration among Dublin, ASU and Queen’s University Belfast to establish a conflict resolution center with an emphasis on using science, technology and engineering advances to unite rather than divide communities.
The leaders of SkySong’s host community — Scottsdale — also showed up to meet McAleese.
Her visit “brings to the forefront what SkySong is all about,” said Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross, who strongly supported the city’s $80 million funding of the project — a tab that could escalate to $120 million.
“We’re trying to create a global portal in southern Scottsdale,” Manross said.
Mayor-elect Jim Lane, who may have won the November election by strongly opposing city funding of SkySong as a councilman, said that even though he was outvoted, he hopes the project is successful now that it’s a reality.
But he said seeing a return on the big investment may take a lot longer than the 15 to 20 years touted when the project was proposed.
“The SkySong concept is not something I’m in argument with,” Lane said. “It’s how we went about it.”