ASU is known for their #1 spot in innovation, even above MIT and Stanford! You only need to pick up any professional’s business card from ASU and look at the back to see the proud announcement. Innovation is a buzzword that came out around 10 years ago, and it is the key factor in driving the forward motion kicked off by the industrial era. Innovation means better more economic and more sustainable solution building. Where there are complex, chaotic and multifaceted problems, there will be the need for innovation. While it mainly applies to technologies and products, innovation can also be in the form of system structures, ideas, and concepts.

I completed my Master’s in Healthcare Innovation in 2013 with a focus on solving health system problems. Just like product engineers and developers, health providers want healthcare to be more efficient in time, cost, and utility. Traditional economic concepts like utility have only recently been adopted by healthcare service industries. The reason for the delay is that healthcare is complex; both a product and a service. It should be a basic service afforded by all people, but it is also a business that is responsible for generating money to compensate the service providers and system managers. Health services cannot be competitive or fluid in the same ways that other products or services are because (in the US) federal mandates often require that low income consumers are not priced out of the market. You can see why this issue of healthcare access and affordability requires innovation.

ASU is taking on complex problems in health and environment with innovative technology solutions all over the globe by partnering with local universities, companies and funders. I have met with ASU partners in Hanoi, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh regarding the position of ASU on innovation in Vietnam. Currently ASU is bringing innovation and quality education infrastructure to Vietnam under the USAID grant funded program Building University-Industry Learning and Development through Innovation and Technology (BUILD-IT). BUILD-IT has taken up the charge on empowering innovation and technology through programming and physical space in the education sectors. Two physical spaces designed to be collaborative work environments have opened in Vietnam; one in Da Nang and one in Ho Chi Minh (Hanoi was able to open their own outside of this grant).

The space is called “Maker Space” and it houses machinery and tools for students to use from concept to prototype of their engineering and technology projects. I attended the grand opening of the Da Nang Maker Space and was able to hear country leaders including USAID Deputy Mission Director Craig Hart speak about why collaboration, quality education, programming and support are so vital to Innovation in Vietnam. After attending the ribbon cutting, I met with Sasha Stinchfield (Associate Managing Director of Strategic Initiatives/Chief of Staff, ASU Vietnam/SE Asia Projects) and Jeff Goss (Associate Vice Provost for Asia/Vietnam) to discuss the Maker Space project. These spaces are modeled after existing ASU buildings of similar nature and even sport a “Devil’s Den” logo on the front door! The plans for the space are endless with upcoming workshops, events, lecture series and competitions aimed at improving STEM education and workforce. Maker Spaces will give STEM students in Vietnam the tools, support and infrastructure they need to solve some of the country’s most complex issues. Way to go Vietnam-ASU partnership! I look forward to my invitation to speak and lecture soon!