By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2013, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Innovation — introducing new methods, ideas, or products — is the lifeblood of every growing economy.
From the world’s largest, most technologically advanced superpowers to the rural counties of Oklahoma, few of us would argue against this point.
In fact, our collective belief in the powers of innovation is so strong, that I’d be willing to bet that if there was a proven formula for innovation, citizens across our state would be lining up for it.
The challenge, of course, is that there is no proven formula. There are no guarantees that legislation, programs, investments or other activities intended to spur the innovations that create new jobs will succeed. Pursuing innovation is a very risky path; by its very nature, it is packed with unknowns.
What we do know with certainty is that knowledge and innovation go hand in hand.
Knowledge is both static and dynamic. Static in the sense that at any point in time, there is a world of knowledge out there, knowledge that can be Googled or learned in school. Knowledge is dynamic in that it constantly changes over time at an ever-increasing rate.
Innovation is the movement of knowledge along that curve. It is these advancements in knowledge, or innovations, that create economic opportunities and job growth.
Innovation can be as simple as a paper clip — just a wire with three bends, or as complex as drugs to cure cancer or treat Crohn’s disease. It’s the idea of taking what we know and doing something different, rather than doing the same thing more efficiently.
Oklahoma can’t grow jobs in the long term without innovation. We can’t have innovation without knowledge. We won’t have either one without investment.
As a state, we have developed a continuum of private/public sources of investment capital managed by i2E Inc. We are working together with the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) and others to create a seamless research to commercialization pipeline for discoveries that occur in our research institutions and universities.
We have a great start on creating an innovation machine. But we have to feed that machine with science and invention on the front end to produce a constant stream of job-creating innovative businesses.
We need to become more deliberate about broadening our homegrown knowledge base. One good place to start would be to increase our emphasis on math and science education.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.
Did You Know? Just 43 percent of senior technology officers at nearly 700 companies believe their organizations are highly effective at generating new ideas and only 36 percent believe they are effective at converting ideas to product development projects. SOURCE: Booz & Company