but lacked the ability to translate the research into companies that remain in Illinois—companies instead leave for the coasts and even Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and other places that have “more jobs, a good tax base, greater wealth creation, taxpayer-financed resources, and more excitement.” Miller faults the state for reliance on a “big company strategy,” seeking to attract large companies to establish new facilities or expand existing ones, comparing this to trying to win a baseball game by “hitting only slam home runs.”2 Thomas J. Meade, a Northwestern University professor, who started up a biomedical company, said with respect to the venture capital situation that in California, he could “raise angel money in a coma” whereas “the Chicago ecosystem is more like a dry well.”3
Illinois has one of the largest concentrations of university, nonprofit and government research institutions in the world, and the University of Illinois has one of the largest research budgets in the country.4 The Argonne National Laboratory, 25 miles from Chicago, was the site of the first creation of stem cells from adult cells in 2003. Chicago is home to eleven medical schools and enrolls more medical students than any other city in the country, but historically has been a net exporter of graduates with medical degrees.5 Illinois was site of the first planted biotechnology field in the world—tomatoes genetically engineered by Monsanto to ward off pests—in 1987, but has seen home-grown biotechnology companies and startups migrate to other regions.6 In 2013 a report by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning warned that in the preceding decade the Chicago region had lost nearly half of its private research and development jobs and was losing ground to smaller innovative regions like San Diego, San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Boston:
As these regions enhance the R&D intensities of their manufacturing clusters and the Chicago region lags behind, it becomes harder for northeastern Illinois to adopt new technologies and compete in global advanced manufacturing…While in 2000 the region produced the fourth most patents in the nation, by 2010 its rank had dropped to eighth. As manufacturing relies on R&D
2Presentation of David Miller, “Early-Stage Finance and Support in Illinois,” National Research Council, Building the Illinois Innovation Economy: Summary of a Symposium, op. cit.
3Chicago Sun-Times, “Micro-Dollars—Nanotechnology Entrepreneurs See Small Window for Venture Funding,” March 30, 2009.
4“Magazine Ranks Illinois Top State for Biotechnology,” Campaign-Urbana the News-Gazette July 23, 2005. The University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center, affiliated with the University of Chicago, has been responsible for path finding discoveries in cancer research, including the development of a new MRI procedure for the detection of early breast cancer, discovery of the molecular mechanism by which tamoxifen blocks the effects of estrogen, and the identification of the first chromosomal abnormality in leukemia.
5“Fertile Ground for a Biotechnology Hub,” Daily Herald March 8, 2001.
6Amgen started business in 1984 in an incubator in Chicago flanked by four hospitals, but eventually left the state for California. “Fertile Ground for a Biotech Hub,” Daily Herald March 8, 2001.