Purdue News

March 2005

A monthly letter from President Martin C. Jischke

Dear Purdue partners,

I'm going to start this month's letter by talking about a report that focuses on universities' potential role in regional economic development. The report, "Accelerating Economic Development through University Technology Transfer," was commissioned by the state of Connecticut and prepared by Innovation Associates, a Virginia consulting firm.

It ranks Purdue among 10 universities that have been extraordinarily successful in generating new commercial licenses and business startups. The list included such great American institutions as Stanford, MIT and Carnegie-Mellon, as well as England's Cambridge University.

Although the universities cited have widely different profiles with respect to their economic development efforts, the common theme running through the Connecticut report is that when state government and private business partner with and support research-based universities, good things happen economically. One of the points emphasized by the consultant was this:

"Excellent university technology transfer is built on excellent research. This research provides the pipeline for commercialization of research results. Moreover, just as important as the absolute magnitude of a university's research portfolio is its strategic focus. In order for some model universities to build strong and focused research bases, they assessed core competencies and developed strategic plans around those core competencies. These efforts provided direction for (a) hiring 'stars' in targeted fields, (b) targeting federal R&D funds, (c) increasing corporate sponsored research, and (d) promoting state initiatives that leverage federal and corporate funds."

This general comment describes almost exactly the approach Purdue took in developing its strategic plan. We decided to build on the things the university does best and to focus our efforts on helping the state of Indiana develop its economic base.

The Connecticut report praises several universtiy initiatives, including the Purdue Research Park and the Technical Assistance Program (TAP). "The Purdue Research Park," the report states, "has been one of the most successful ... parks in the U.S. ... One of the reasons for the park's success is the unusually close link between firms in the park and the university."

Of TAP, the report says: "Technology transfer comes in many forms, and one of those forms is advancement of technological know-how in small and medium-sized companies. TAP for almost 20 years has provided technological assessments and consulting to thousands of Indiana firms, resulting in higher sales and cost savings to most of those firms. A 5:1 benefit-cost ratio and a 90 percent customer satisfaction rating makes this one of the most successful 'technology transfer' programs."

Innovation Associates credits Purdue research and technology transfer for creating an estimated 10,000 jobs and 20 new companies between 2002 and 2004. These are significant positive impacts for Indiana, and we believe we can do even more. "Accelerating Economic Development through University Technology Transfer" is available on the Internet. It is valuable reading for anyone interested in growing our economy.

Purdue has emphasized its potential for state economic development in its budget request to the state for the coming biennium. Despite Indiana's very difficult situation, we believe our state's leaders recognize the value of investing in the university's capacity to create jobs and foster business growth. Representative Jeff Espich has developed a very innovative proposal that would create up to $1 billion in bonding authority over a five-year period to support university research. If this legislation becomes law, it would be an excellent complement to the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund, which has been one of our state's major success stories.

Legislators also have indicated they will work hard to support Purdue's capital budget request, which includes a critical upgrade of the power plant on the West Lafayette campus.

Purdue understands well that the state's first obligations are to balance its budget and address the imbalance between revenue and expenditures, but we know with just as much certainty that moving Indiana in a positive direction will depend on finding ways to invest in the economic potential of research and the education of our people. When we find a way to do those things, we will be on the road to a new age of prosperity for our state.


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