By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2019, The Oklahoman
I value benchmarking. Whatever the goal, comparing metrics with industry leaders is the best way to test and improve results. Especially when the comparison is not what we would want it to be.
It is no surprise that when it comes to the key indicators of a robust innovation economy, Silicon Valley, Boston, New York lead the rest of the country. The majority of investment capital flows to these regions. They produce more new advanced startups and provide most of the investment in research and development and investment in human capital that occurs in our country.
You are probably thinking, it isn’t fair to compare us to them. And that’s absolutely true. When it comes to making the investments and building the resources that it takes to create a vibrant pipeline of startups, our state is at a much different point in terms of progress and resources.
So, yes, it is rather unrealistic to think we can become another Silicon Valley; however, it is entirely realistic to believe that we can adopt best practices from either coast while we strive to be the leader in innovation among our peers in the center of the country.
On that front we have a ways to go.
A recently published science and technology study, 2018 State Technology and Science Index: Sustaining America’s Innovation Economy, by the Milken Institute, a not-for-profit think tank, benchmarks all 50 states based on 107 individual indicators that contribute to science and technology capabilities and commercialization capabilities.
The index (Oklahoma rankings are in parentheses) measures indicators such as research and development inputs (45); risk capital and entrepreneurial infrastructure (43); human capital investment
(50); technology and science workforce (40); and technology concentration and dynamism (41).
In the overall national rankings, Oklahoma dropped from No.44 in 2016 to No. 47 in 2018 — above only Arkansas, West Virginia and Mississippi. As our state seeks to be more relevant and competitive in the global and knowledge economy, this is cause for immediate action.
Oklahoma needs a renewed commitment to invest strategically in research, science and technology. This investment is foundational to creating and sustaining a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, diversifying and growing an economy that will produce — and keep — top (STEM) talent in our state while attracting talent and technology businesses to our state.
There are actions we can take — investment in higher education, developing new programs to encourage commercialization of university technologies, accelerating research through the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Commercialization and Technology’s (OCAST) proven innovation/commercialization model, and continuing to develop next stage venture capital inside Oklahoma.
Oklahoma has the framework. We have the know-how. We have the vision and the need. This is a new year, with new state leadership and legislators. Let’s work together to make our state not another Silicon Valley but a technology corridor of the Plains built on our industrial base, our research institutions and foundations, our Career and Technology System, and agencies like OCAST — our nationally acclaimed state agency for technology based economic development.
We can build and sustain Oklahoma’s innovation economy — we have the data, the benchmarks and the basic structure to “move the needle.” We just need the “will.”
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 [email protected].