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The Four "P"s for Building a Local Knowledge-Based Economy
Diane Vines Dr. Diane Welch Vines
President, Oregon Science and Technology Partnership and Coordinator of the Oregon Governor's Healthcare Workforce Initiative
Portland, OR

The Oregon Business Plan emphasizes the 4 Ps - Promoting innovation, People, Place, and Productivity - for knowledge-based economic development. Oregonians believe that their state is a special place to live, and it is. It has an array of beautiful natural resources from mountains to the ocean to high desert and fertile farmlands. There is a large land base with relatively few people, all friendly and helpful and who collaborate as a matter of course. But in the competitive global market, it takes more than a great place and special people to build and nurture a knowledge-based economy. It requires that we develop partnerships among government, education and industry to exploit our intellectual assets as well as we do our physical assets.

Promoting Innovation: Oregon promotes a climate of innovation by tapping into the intellectual assets of the universities and colleges and into the immense intellectual assets at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). The state is part of the Northwest Research Triangle, with over $1.2 billion in federally funded research, which attracts growing companies to the region.

Several years ago the citizens of Oregon voted by a 77 percent approval for a Constitutional amendment allowing for Oregon's public universities to hold stock in companies that commercialize their technologies and ideas. The campaign to convince the electorate of the value of the amendment to the economy was a true collaboration among university, government, and company leaders.

Access to capital is also very important and often a problem for states trying to improve their entrepreneurial climate. Available capital must be targeted at very early stage ideas and small, niche-based, nimble companies. Oregon has the Oregon Growth Account, Oregon Resource and Technology Development Account (utilizing lottery funds), Oregon Investment Council's set-aside of public retirement funds, and regional angel networks to support growth of new knowledge-based companies.

People: A knowledge-based economy must have a skilled, creative and flexible workforce. The Oregon Engineering and Technology Industry Council and the provision of multi-year funding for the education of engineers and computer scientists is helping to fill this need. The Oregon Governor funded an information technology education and training effort, and has begun an initiative on healthcare workforce preparation. Oregon's community colleges partner with individual and groups of companies on tailored education and training.

Place: Knowledge-based companies thrive where there are opportunities for the exchange and transfer of knowledge and technologies among companies, government agencies, and colleges and universities. Knowledge has to flow in all directions with companies utilizing the ideas and discoveries of the universities and research labs. Likewise universities work with companies to spin out their inventions into the economy. The Oregon Science and Technology Partnership (OSTP) has created "Knowledge Connection" to enhance knowledge flow. OSTP, a not-for-profit government-university-industry partnership, is dedicated to the economic expansion of the East Portland Metropolitan region and serves as a voice for the region's economic assets and joins government efforts to recruit new knowledge-based companies.

With the Knowledge Connection, OSTP partners with the area community colleges and research universities to link companies with faculty and graduate students. University resources are helping to solve specialized business problems, improve products and processes, and commercialize ideas from laboratories to the market. And further, OSTP frequently takes company, university, and government executives on bus trips to visit the PNNL, helping to build collaborations among companies and PNNL's scientists and engineers.

Productivity: To help improve productivity of companies in the East Portland Metropolitan region, OSTP has recently spawned and incubated the Pacific Northwest Defense Coalition (PNDC), a membership organization. In just four months it has attracted 25 entrepreneurial companies interested in growing the amount and efficiency of their defense work. PNDC's membership is expected to grow to 50 companies by year's end and to include companies from the states of Oregon and Washington. Federal delegates of the two states and regional economic development agencies have recognized this unprecedented collaboration.

OSTP is also focused on growing a healthcare cluster, including both traded sector companies and non-traded provider organizations, to help increase sector company revenues and improve healthcare resources for all regional companies. And Oregon has developed its first signature research center, the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnology Institute, to focus on applications of nanoscience discoveries to microtechnology products.

Oregon is the epitome of its motto "We Try Harder". Its hard work is now succeeding in building knowledge-based industries such as nanoscience applied to microtechnology products, value-added natural resources, recreation technology, nutraceuticals, green technology, renewable energy technologies, smart transportation, and many others. Following the Business Plan's four Ps, the state is realizing a critical mass of ideas, research, process and product innovation, and education and training to support its knowledge-based economy.

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