In January of this year Bend City Councilor Jim Clinton unveiled a plan to develop a research institute in Bend with scientists and engineers doing research that would translate academic and industrial advances into new products and services. These products and services would be commercialized by local companies that partner with the research center.
Clinton’s plan stated that the Applied Research Center (ARC) build a network of small high-tech businesses by providing facilities, research and business advice. Facilities will include lab and fabrication equipment and incubator space. Income to cover staff and facilities will be derived from charges for services and from outside contracts and grants.
Relationships with research universities are a core part of the center concept. Universities have technologies that can be commercialized and have graduate and undergraduate students who could benefit by work at ARC or at an associated company. Cooperative research programs can be supported by STTR funds (Small Business Technology Transfer program takes research and intellectual property from a research institution and tries to develop a useful product) and other programs in a way that benefits both a university and the ARC and its associated companies. Longer term, ARC can offer advanced degrees in conjunction with partner universities.
As Clinton noted building on what research universities provide, American companies that embrace R&D and innovation will continue to be global leaders.
“However, Central Oregon is not much of a player in this game and the region suffers accordingly. We have no university research and offer no advanced degrees in relevant fields. There is a small corporate research capacity, but it is nearly exclusively of in-house benefit. There is some venture investor activity, but it would be hard to claim it is a major economic development force as it is in some other regions. So while we do have a number of companies well positioned for future growth, we lack a critical mass in any field and are far from being known as industry leaders in any sector. A properly organized and operated applied research center will serve a major role in correcting these deficiencies.”
As we sit on the edge of our economic realities, this proposal is a bright spot in local efforts to bring jobs and economic diversification to the region.
Clinton’s vision has not gone unnoticed. Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley recently singled out an applied research center as an example of the kind of planning that can give Central Oregon a foundation for economic growth for decades to come. Coupled with his comments is $200,000 in federal funding for the project that he and Senator Ron Wyden requested and which was recently approved by a
The applied research center vision is designed to create hundreds of permanent new jobs in existing companies as well as help attract other technology-oriented companies to Oregon. This funding will be used to start the design process of the estimated $5 million research center.
Evidently the Senate committee understands the importance of innovation and how expanding our research and development capabilities now will help Central Oregon stay at the forefront of growth in the science and technology sector.
“The Bend research center will serve as a business accelerator for job growth in targeted industries and is an innovative way to leverage federal R&D investments to benefit this region and all of Oregon,” said Clinton.
The center would offer training and access to research facilities for start-up companies that face huge challenges in the research and development stage. The funding for this project is part of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill and must still pass the full Senate, be merged with a companion bill from the House, and be signed by the President before it becomes law and the funds