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VOICES FROM THE INDUSTRY: Technology, life sciences creating new Hoosier jobs

November 26, 2007

While other states strive to find their places in today's international economy, the Hoosier state has made a reputation for itself in the life sciences arena.

It's an important effort, especially when you consider that our state's past successes were in the field of manufacturing. Con sidering that the 2007 Indiana Manufacturers Directory reports Indiana lost more than 17,000 manufacturing jobs in the past year, this new economic model built upon technology and life sciences is important, if not essential, for our state.

Indiana's reputation in technology and life sciences is well known in the national business arena. According to Business Facilities, a national economic forecaster, Indiana's life sciences/health care industry is "delivering revolutionary technology to a worldwide market."

The group ranks Indiana seventh nationally for its quality and breadth as a biotechnology location and ninth for medical devices and equipment.

According to the Indy Partnership, a regional economic development corporation, the state life sciences industry reaches $69 billion annually, and Indiana's health industry directly employs more than 274,000 people.

Boost from parks

An important contributor to these rankings is Indiana's Certified Technology Park program, which has created 18 parks around the state.

The state's Certified Technology Park program is directed through the Indiana Economic Development Corp. The state legislature launched this public-private partnership in 2005 to function as Indiana's lead economic development agency. The state now has 18 certified technology parks that promote technology-transfer opportunities and high-technology businesses.

Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette, which was Indiana's first certified technology park, was recertified last month by the state after showing substantial job growth in the past four years. Indiana University and the University of Notre Dame have invested in parks as well.

Another contributor to the state's high ranking is BioCrossroads, the state's life sciences initiative led by the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, the city of Indianapolis, Eli Lilly and Co., Purdue University, Indiana University and the Indiana Health Industry Forum.

BioCrossroads has specific goals that focus on supporting startup and emerging life sciences companies. The partnership focuses on eight science areas: agricultural biotech, biosensors, cancer treatment, cardiovascular, evidence-based medicine, neuroscience, protein analysis and sportscentered life sciences.

Indiana's 21st Century Research and Technology Fund, which fosters technology development and commercialization through grants that partner industry and academic research and development efforts, also contributes greatly to this cause.

Business concerns

Why should we care? Several reasons:

The company I co-founded in West Lafayette is an example of how research parks serve as the "incubator" where great ideas can grow outside the classroom and laboratory settings.

SSCI's specialized chemistry and pharmaceutical operations had grown to a 90-employee firm that was acquired last year by Aptuit, a Connecticut-based pharmaceutical leader. These jobs stayed here in Indiana with local workers.

A track record of flourishing technology parks in other Indiana communities sets the stage for the future successes of certified tech parks around the state.

According to a 2006 certified technology park survey by the Indiana Economic Development Corp., the average wage of employees working in a certified tech park ranges from $40,000 to $50,000-significantly higher that the state's average wage of $35,000.

We are fortunate that existing-and successful-economic development models in these venues are already flourishing, but we can do more.

The Association of University Research Parks reports that more than 4,000 companies and organizations, many focused in biotechnology and IT sectors, employ more than 300,000 full-time employees in U.S. research parks.

This association in 2004 ranked the Purdue Research Park No. 1 nationally in university-based business incubators. You can support the thriving research park model by promoting the concept to your colleagues here and in other states. It's a successful initiative that has generated new jobs for today and will continue to pay dividends for many years to come.

Clearly, technology and life sciences will be a primary vehicle for economic development during the 21st century, and Indiana is a leader in these sectors.



Byrn is vice president of physical and analytical chemistry for Aptuit Inc. Views expressed here are the writer's.
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