Utah Technology Innovation Summit highlights role of innovation in addressing policy challenges now and in the future

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More than 300 entrepreneurs, scientists, policymakers and thought leaders convened for the sold-out second annual Utah Technology Innovation Summit on Monday.

Throughout the event, attendees learned about emerging trends in Utah’s innovation ecosystem and how those trends support the state’s economic growth. The Summit also explored how technological innovation can address current policy challenges for the state.

Three-term former Utah Governor Michael Leavitt, who is also the only Utahn to have served in two different federal cabinet roles, spoke as the afternoon plenary keynote. Highlighting the state’s investment in the 1990s to build infrastructure and attract new companies to Utah, he stressed that while those investments laid the groundwork for Utah’s current economic growth and success, the state must continue to innovate and invest to ensure long-term prosperity.

“The next leaders of this state will have to take bold risks, will have to step up and invest, will have to innovate in ways that were unnecessary for us, but this generational relay requires it,” said Leavitt. “…Leadership is a generational relay.”

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Earlier in the morning, Dr. Brian Shiozawa, regional director for Health and Human Services and a former member of the Utah Senate, discussed the need for innovation and new technologies to address the state’s health care policy challenges. During his morning keynote remarks, Shiozawa noted that Utah leads the nation in opioid-related overdose deaths and that crisis costs the United States more than an estimated $500 billion a year.

Shiozawa stressed that new research and technologies are necessary to address the opioid crisis in Utah and around the nation. He cited the need for better addiction prevention and treatment options, more data, new ways to reverse drug overdoses or prevent them and better research as necessary policy solutions.

In addition to Shiozawa’s discussion on the role of innovation in addressing Utah’s health challenges, the Summit also explored other opportunities where Utah technologies can address policy issues for the state, such as air quality, energy development and rural economic challenges.

The event culminated in the presentation of the 32nd annual Governor’s Medals for Science and Technology during the afternoon plenary. Awardees included Diane Crim, Bryant Middle School, for K-12 education; Dr. Randall J Olson, University of Utah chairman of Ophthalmology and CEO of the John A. Moran Eye Center, for academic/research; Intermountain Precision Genomics for industry; and Fred Lampropoulos, founder and CEO of Merit Medical Systems, for lifetime achievement.

“Winners of the Governor’s Medal for Science and Technology are true innovators and leaders in our community. They have tirelessly advocated for advancing Utah as a leader in science and technology, making sure future generations will continue to innovate,” said Mike Mower, Gov. Gary Herbert’s deputy chief of staff, who presented the awards with Leavitt on behalf of the governor. “The Governor’s Medal for Science and Technology recognizes those who, like our state’s founders, are true pioneers.”