[StBernard] Report Advances Creation of Louisiana Innovation Alliance

Westley Annis Westley at da-parish.com
Fri Jan 25 23:54:14 EST 2008

Report Advances Creation of Louisiana Innovation Alliance

Business Leaders Commend LRA and Regents Effort, Urge Swift Implementation

BATON ROUGE, La. - A report released this week outlines a progressive strategy to help Louisiana spur economic development by marshaling the research and development talent within its universities.

Based on best practices from other states, the report advocates the creation of a private-sector led non-profit organization referred to as the Louisiana Innovation Alliance. This organization would bring together the business community, research universities and state government in a partnership to direct state and private investments into research niches where the state has existing advantages. It recommends ways to maximize Louisiana's most competitive research and development assets; improve its capacity for moving the results of research from the laboratory into the marketplace, also known as "technology transfer;" and create a culture of entrepreneurship within universities and the general population.

"The RTS plan offers a well-thought-out, strategic approach to harnessing Louisiana's considerable university research capacity -- especially in areas identified as Louisiana research strengths -- to stimulate the creation and development of high-tech businesses," said Commissioner of Higher Education Joseph Savoie. "And the bottom line, of course, is that those businesses have the potential to generate the kind of new-economy jobs Louisiana badly needs in order to be competitive."

Commissioned by the Louisiana Board of Regents and the Louisiana Recovery Authority, the report was prepared by Regional Technology Strategies (RTS) of North Carolina after extensive research and public input, including public sessions in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport. Next steps will involve finalizing implementation details and securing private sector and state funding.

The effort was spurred initially by the need to stimulate recovery of the research capacity of institutions directly impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The RTS plan, however, goes well beyond hurricane recovery, focusing on ways to energize technology transfer (turning university research into commercially-viable products and companies) at all of the state's research institutions.

Highlights of the RTS report, entitled "Building Louisiana's Innovation Economy: A Plan to Foster University Technology Development and Commercialization," were presented at this week's Board of Regents' meeting.

The plan focuses on three key elements of technology-based economic development:

1) Strategic investment: Louisiana must identify and build upon the state's most competitive assets and invest on a scale that will allow success.

2) Technology transfer: Success will depend on the state's ability to improve the capacity to move university technology from the lab to the marketplace.

3) Entrepreneurial talent: While universities can not start or grow companies, they can produce graduates and recruit people with that capacity.

The success of this initiative also relies on private sector leadership in following with national models, including the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) which was started by a group of business leaders. Georgia has invested over $400 million in its program since 1992, when the GRA was created. Similar to what is proposed for Louisiana these funds have been invested in eminent scholars, laboratories and equipment to support these researchers, and commercialization efforts at Georgia's six research universities.

So far, 54 scholars have been recruited, 18 new nationally recognized centers of research excellence added, 125 companies formed and more than 4,000 jobs created.

"The GRA's efforts added approximately $2 billion in new federal and private funds to the Georgia economy - a return of about $5 for every dollar the state invested. That's an impact that should make all of us sit up and take notice," said LRA Board member Matt Stuller.

While Louisiana's universities conduct exciting and commercially-valuable research across a broad spectrum of technological disciplines, RTS has identified four areas of research strength at Louisiana's universities: agricultural science, life sciences, materials science and materials engineering, and chemistry and chemical engineering. According to the report, these areas offer Louisiana the highest potential for technology transfer and research commercialization. However, it acknowledges that research priorities can change overnight and that the new organization must regularly revisit the strategic priorities.

The entire RTS report is available on the Board of Regents web site: http://www.laregents.org/www2/index.htm <http://www.laregents.org/www2/index.htm>

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated South Louisiana, claiming 1,464 lives, destroying more than 200,000 homes and 18,000 businesses. The Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) is the planning and coordinating body that was created in the aftermath of these storms to lead one of the most extensive rebuilding efforts in the world. The LRA is a 33-member body which is coordinating across jurisdictions, supporting community recovery and resurgence, ensuring integrity and effectiveness, and planning for the recovery and rebuilding of Louisiana.


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