The University of Arizona’s Tech Park on Rita Road south of Tucson houses dozens of startup companies, but the resources it offers are a draw for well-established companies, too. Tucson-based defense technology company Applied Energetics recently relocated their headquarters to the Tech Park, where they will further develop their lasers.
“It was such an ideal location, being in the tech park and around a lot of different innovators. But the space itself was also a draw,” said Applied Energetics CEO Greg Quarles. “It’s one of those spaces that you’re not going to come across often in the Tucson area, with office space, lab space and clean room space. We couldn’t pass up on it.”
Coming up on their 20th anniversary, Applied Energetics made the move in anticipation of their future growth and for greater research opportunities. The company’s core development, Laser Guided Energy, works with ultra-short pulse lasers that can be used in “multiple counter-threat defense applications” (described by the company’s former CEO as a “controllable death ray”). Whereas other directed energy weapons like high energy lasers and high-power microwaves are not owned by a single company, Applied Energetics owns all technologies affiliated with Laser Guided Energy.
“As we look at the way things are evolving around the world, you have threats where there are multiple munitions and missiles launched simultaneously. You have threats with swarms of UAVs that can attack simultaneously. So it takes a very strong, layered defense. Right now, that comprises [continuous wave] lasers, microwaves and radio frequency. And we firmly believe that ultra-short pulse is the next layer of that defense,” Quarles said. “We’re showing very clearly to the directed energy community that ultra-short pulse technology can engage, damage, deter or destroy the threat in a microsecond, and be locked onto another threat in less than a second.”
For their relocation, Applied Energetics looked to consolidate their two previous locations under one roof. They originally planned to expand by the end of 2021, but a recently emptied space at the Tech Park was a perfect fit. The 13,000-square-foot facility was previously occupied by an optics company that had made major improvements to the location.
“Applied Energetics fit the bill, it was the right timing, and they moved in within 75 days after our first introduction, which is almost unheard of, especially with a sophisticated space,” said Carol Stewart, associate vice president for Tech Parks Arizona. “Greg Quarles is that type of leader. When he sees something that works, he’s not afraid to jump in and make the commitment… I’m really pleased a Tucson company was able to find what they needed within their backyard.”
The new location features a 4,800-square-foot Class 1000 cleanroom, office space, room for research and development and high-level manufacturing.
“For us, it’s the expanded capabilities. From a visibility perspective, having our customers come in and see what we’re doing in this phenomenal space. Plus, the ability to have all of our compliance needs met, with safety and security,” Quarles said. “We know several of the key occupants out there. They work in similar defense, intelligence, research and development activities, so to us, that spoke volumes of their ability to come in and work in an environment that is both collaborative and meet compliance requirements for federal research.”
Applied Energetics joins other defense and technology companies in the Tech Park such as Raytheon Missile Systems and NP Photonics.
Aside from the resources and space, a major benefit of the tech park are the opportunities for tenants to collaborate. Stewart explains these collaborations can occur naturally through companies occupying the same facility, but also through organized meetings set up by administration. Although many business and technology activities resorted to working from home during the pandemic, as companies return to in-person work, Quarles says they are open to meet and collaborate with their fellow tech park tenants.
“We look for businesses that are really excited to be part of the Tech Park community and want to be connected to the UA,” Stewart said. “We’re more than a business park, there’s a really special creative environment and energy that innovators like at the tech park, where they can work side-by-side with a small tech company or alongside something like Raytheon or IBM.”
The tech park also provides opportunities for tenants to connect with researchers and scientists in the university, which can be especially valuable to defense contractors due to the university’s deep roots in aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering and optical sciences.
“We’re ideally located for defense contractors because of the type of space we have available,” Stewart said. “We can accommodate that security element, if you need a clean room, a laser room, we have the knowhow to build all of those out. Every tenant that we work with has very specific requirements.”
In total, the Tech Park at Rita Road campus stretches more than 1,200 acres, with 2 million square feet of space for high-tech offices and laboratories. In total, Applied Energetics holds 26 patents and 11 additional Government Sensitive Patent Applications.
“We continue to work on our mission to be the first source the federal government comes to for ultra-short pulse lasers. Even during the pandemic, and now, we continue to work with those customers and expand our capabilities,” Quarles said. “We have a world-class facility now, and have consolidated all our operations under one roof, and that was really what our goal was.”