We must preserve, expand even, our state’s investment in research and development.
By Scott Meacham
The state recently appropriated $15 million to be matched by local funds to create three entrepreneurial accelerators — one in Oklahoma City, one in Tulsa, and a third to serve rural Oklahoma. It is great to see the state direct investment toward the entrepreneurial potential of our state.
In reviewing the scope of work as we prepared i2E’s response to the state’s solicitation, it struck me just how far Oklahoma’s institutional understanding of what it takes to start up and scale a technology business has matured over the last 20 years.
It has been almost three decades since the state legislature first put words to the audacious vision that Oklahoma, a state built on energy, agriculture, and aerospace, could actually succeed at diversifying the state’s economy through technology development, technology transfer, and technology commercialization.
Legislatures can accomplish goals that the private sector can’t. That initial legislation created the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST), an agency charged with putting implementation structure to a dream. More than 20 years in the making, OCAST has been the originator and catalyst for Oklahoma’s Innovation Model — five organizations, including our own, which offer a continuum of services to deliver innovation to our state.
The recently created state-funded accelerators are the state’s latest commitment to our legacy vision of economic diversification driven by innovation. In defining required capabilities, the RFP scope requires access to a national and international networks of funds, a national network of mentors, and an international network of customers.
Think about that. With confidence, the state of Oklahoma is saying that yes, we can develop new companies here, startups based on new technologies with the type of solutions and value propositions that can attract capital — not just from the coasts and Texas, but from all over the world.
We are staking the claim clearly that with the right focus and resources, Oklahoma can create and scale two dozen new companies every year, the caliber of startups that huge brands and international corporate customers will want to do business with.
The state’s plan for funding these accelerators shines a light on our belief that there is so much potential in Oklahoma, we can keep busy not one, but three accelerators priming the pipeline of seed stage companies that are based on technology — and that Oklahoma has so much to offer, that with the added attraction of these accelerators, entrepreneurs will want to move here from other more crowded, more expensive, more stressful locations to start their businesses.
There is something extraordinarily confident and bold about setting this ambitious scope and assigning the resources to make it happen.
As we applaud the state for the creation of the new accelerators, we can’t lose sight of the importance of state investment in research and development. The real raw material of deal flow is innovation.
Accelerators can help create deal flow by providing the capital and individualized services that entrepreneurs need to scale their big ideas. But to create the foundation for those dreams and big ideas in the first place, we must preserve, expand even, our state’s investment in research and development. Capital follows innovation instead of the other way around.
Scott Meacham CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.