A decade ago, new legislation allowed faculty at Ohio’s public universities to become stakeholders in startup companies derived from their own research findings. And in 2002 the Ohio Third Frontier program was established to create new technology-based products, companies, industries and jobs. With an initial $1.6 billion investment, it supports the elements that drive innovation. Equally impressive, he said, was the decision by Ohio voters in 2010 to invest an additional $700 million of public money in the Third Frontier, bringing the total investment through 2015 to $2.3 billion. The Third Frontier program has partnered with the National Academies to gain objective third-party evaluations of its proposals.
Despite all of these measures, however, Dr. Proenza said more remains to be done. For example, the state lags others in federally funded academic research, and has achieved true distinction in only a handful of areas. Several industrial and business clusters are virtually devoid of R&D support. Also, at a time when developing and attracting technical and entrepreneurial talent is considered an essential ingredient of an economic development strategy, Northeast Ohio has no organization focused specifically on this critical element. And both domestic and international competitors are now “running faster, often from better-established innovation ecosystems.”
In closing, he called on the participants to learn from one another, to discover what those outside the region are doing, and to create the engagement of ideas that will generate new economic vitality.
“As we well know, the work before us is not easy, or we would have done it long ago. We must be committed to innovate on innovation itself, to focus our entire regional society on innovation,” Dr. Proenza said. “As Paul Romer reminds us, ‘the most important job for economic policy is to create an institutional environment that supports technological change… (and to) resist the temptation to impede change when it causes temporary disruption.’” That is