Dear Purdue Partners,
When the Purdue Research Park opened in 1961, university leaders and the Purdue Research Foundation envisioned a business hub that would allow companies to thrive and that would make the development of new enterprises easier. They especially wanted the park to encourage the development of the kind of companies where concepts created through Purdue research would be put to work in the private business sector.
Growth came slowly in the early years, but the Research Park was a very good idea, and it evolved into a great success. Today 140 companies ? more than 90 of them based on high technology ? make their homes in the complex located about two miles northwest of the West Lafayette campus. The firms employ almost 3,000 people, and the park has been ranked as the top university-affiliated research park in the nation.
In 2002, Purdue launched Discovery Park, an on-campus research and teaching hub that we conceived as a revolutionary way to harness the intellectual capacity of the university for the benefit of Indiana's economy. Interdisciplinary research in Discovery Park focuses on advanced manufacturing, energy, nanotechnology, the life sciences and the environment. The dream was to create a center of activity where professors ? and students ? were encouraged to take their new ideas to the marketplace by starting new companies.
Many universities have interdisciplinary research centers, but Purdue took it another step by establishing the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship as a platform to launch technology-based enterprises. The center is a resource for people who believe they have marketable ideas. It provides the business expertise that even the most brilliant scientists and engineers don't always have. We hoped that ideas created in University labs and classrooms would be developed and refined at Discovery Park and ultimately emerge as new companies. We worked to make it as easy as possible for the fledgling enterprises to transition to the Purdue Research Park, which offers through its incubator programs the kind of support that many new firms need.
In February, we saw concrete evidence that the dream is beginning to come true. The Purdue Research Foundation's Office of Technology Commercialization reported that 2006 was a record-breaking year for start-up companies formed from Purdue-licensed technologies.
During the calendar year, 14 companies were launched on Purdue researchers' innovations in the fields of medical devices, life sciences, information technology, agriculture, advanced manufacturing, telecommunication and engineering design.
Not all the firms put down roots in the Research Park, but 10 of them are operating in Indiana and four are now based in the Research Park, which provides them with a secure place to start growing and helps them find their market niches. Launching a new business is a very uncertain process, and most of these new companies are very small, but the connections to the university and the Research Park give them a distinct advantage.
What do these new firms mean to Indiana's economy? Individually, they may have little initial impact. Some will surely succeed; some may ultimately fail. But collectively these new companies may be Indiana's best hope to create an economy with a high percentage well-paying jobs that will attract and retain highly educated people.
Can one of these little companies become the kind of major corporation that employs thousands of people and anchors an entire economy? The answer to that question is yes. It is possible - but it is not necessary. The real engine of a vital and growing economy is the constant generation of new enterprises that meet the needs of markets that may be local and may be global.
Through Discovery Park and the Research Park, Purdue is striving to develop these new businesses through a process that is both creative and disciplined. The evidence from 2006 is that it is beginning to work, and that is great news for Indiana!
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