Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber attended an economic development forum at the University of Oregon’s newest high-tech science facility, the Lewis Integrative Science Building, on Jan. 10. In addition to remarks by the governor and officials from the University of Oregon and Oregon State University, the event included a panel with entrepreneurs behind several successful startup companies and featured the unveiling of the proposed South Willamette Valley Technology Business Accelerator. The concept is based on a partnership between the UO and Oregon State University that aims to foster job creation by advancing the formation, support, growth and retention of technology-based startups.
UO President Michael Gottfredson described the proposed new accelerator concept as a part of the South Willamette Valley Regional Solutions Network – a joint project between the two universities and community agencies, regional cities/counties and private sector partners. The program aims to encourage the translation of innovative ideas from university laboratories into products, companies and jobs. Kimberly Andrews Espy, the UO’s vice president of research and innovation and dean of the graduate school, and Ron Adams, OSU’s executive associate vice president for research, also spoke at the event.
The event featured a forum led by Nick Fowler, CEO of Perpetua Power Source. The leaders of successful startups, including Don Upson, CEO of QE Chemicals, spoke about some of the missing ingredients that could lead to the success of more startup companies in Oregon. Upson, whose company licenses the work of UO chemistry professor Shih-Yuan Liu, called for more lab space, seminars and networking events. Mike Marusich, CEO of MAbDx Inc., and Matt Johnen, CEO of ZAPS Technologies, recounted their experiences getting companies off the ground and talked about how the proposed accelerator program could support future startups.
Some of the ideas in the accelerator proposal include the establishment of later stage development funds for promising companies, the greater availability of small business loans and venture capital funding, and access to affordable office and lab space in close proximity to universities. The Governor’s Recommended Budget includes a pool of funds for Regional Solutions projects such as the accelerator. The Oregon Legislature convenes Feb. 4 and will consider the budget and other matters.