2,700 people have gained advanced manufacturing certificates in the past year, and more received workforce training, often in very advanced skills.
In response to a question, Dr. Lechtenberg said that Indiana’s Technical Assistance Program is funded by a state appropriation that has not been increased since the mid-1980s. Program growth has come mostly in fees for services, contracts, and training programs.
A questioner asked about park size, and Mr. Weddle said that the park measured about two by eight miles. “This makes for difficult collaboration from company to company, and between our owners and the tenants association, both operationally and around communities of interest.” He said that there is no one way to organize employees or incentives to improve interaction, but they are trying many approaches. The most popular park program has proven to be the softball league, with shortage of fields and a waiting list to enter a team. They also have other programs to encourage cross-company collaboration, including monthly mixers for the tech workers that are catered by restaurants from around the region. “We once hired someone to do salsa dancing lessons. Have you ever seen 300 people with pocket protectors doing salsa dancing?” Groups also formed online, including a wiki group, and task forces were set up to share best practices. “We’re just beginning to dialogue with other parks,” he said. “We’re all collaborating, working hard to find ways to reduce the sensitivity around basic competition, and learning to work together.”
On the topic of collaboration among institutions, he said that it is a challenging issue. Mr. Weddle of RTP said that the three universities “worked better with each other than most institutions work within themselves.” He said that this collaboration was embedded early, when the state would fund facilities—such as the first supercomputer in the region—only if they were shared. When the biotech center was established in 1984, a single center had to be shared by the universities. “It is an institutionalized level of collaboration,” he said. “The beneficiaries of our foundation are the three universities. We have a mechanism whereby we use our proceeds to fund demonstration projects that all agree on.”
Dr. Lechtenberg of Purdue noted the challenge of assembling a critical mass of scientists and engineers on the smaller campuses. “What will be the emphases in smaller communities?” he asked. “The challenge is not in finding capital, but in finding the entrepreneurial talent locally.”