The future's most successful entrepreneurs will most likely be different
than those today. They may be wearing lab coats rather than sport coats,
and safety glasses rather than contact lenses. As comfortable in ivory towers
as office towers, they may be using microscopes more than Microsoft.
In Georgia this kind of future is well underway. The Georgia Research
Alliance Eminent Scholars program has already attracted 51 world-class
scientists doing groundbreaking research and now is focused on bringing
research results into the commercial marketplace. Scholars, research, innovation
and commercialization are creating a potent force in the global competition
for innovation and high-tech, high-wage jobs.
Many successful research scientists have shown that they can be successful
entrepreneurs. Leaders in many states, recognizing this potential, are providing
new resources for research as a way to strengthen economic development.
California leaders and voters recently saw this opportunity and authorized
spending $3 billion on stem cell research, but Georgia made the connection
in 1990, launching the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA). This public-private
partnership helps harness the collaborative power of the state's six research
universities to create, improve and grow science- and technology-based companies.
In the past 15 years, the GRA has invested $400 million to recruit top
researchers in advanced communications, computing and the biosciences. Besides
attracting top scientific talent, it has produced new and improved laboratories
that have brought the flow of research into companies in the form of marketable
products and services.
Research funding follows scholarly talent and the increase in research
funding has been dramatic. GRA's investment has returned more than $2 billion
in federal and private funding. But more significantly, the GRA Eminent
Scholars researchers and their colleagues attracted to Georgia have
led to the creation of more than 4,000 high-paying jobs and 125 new companies.
To nurture the growth and success of young companies, the GRA collaborates
with the state's research universities, helping provide an infrastructure
of support. New business "incubators" link fledgling companies
with management talent, funding sources and industry contacts - all before
they leave academia behind. Two of the many new companies have gone on to
be publicly traded: AtheroGenics, a pharmaceutical company focused on novel
drugs for the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases, and Inhibitex,
a clinical stage, biopharmaceutical company focused on novel "first-in-field"
antibody-based products to prevent and treat serious bacterial and fungal
Advancing the progress of scholars and research institutions as part
of strategic economic development has also helped the state's existing companies.
Numerous firms in Georgia's private sector, from poultry producers to medical
manufacturers, accessing these valuable resources, have become more competitive,
keeping and adding new jobs in Georgia.
Leading firms nationwide -- Google, Hewlett-Packard and Gillette among
them -- trace their origins to research universities. Just as these firms
took time to grow, so Georgia has several jewels poised for growth, and
the best is yet to come. Research and innovation is the key to the 21st
century economy, and the company with the best innovators wins.