About Oregon InC

Oregon InC began in 2005, when the Governor and Legislature brought together more than 50 leaders from the private sector, the state's four research universities and government to create a new way to do business.

The need to radically change how the state recognized, supported and funded technology-based economic development was obvious:

  • Oregon was—and is—a small state, with a population and economy dwarfed by its high-tech neighbors to the north and south. The state couldn't spend its way to prosperity, but it could be competitive by concentrating key resources in areas where it already held unique advantages and for which there would be significant global markets.
  • While Oregon's research universities were respected, they could not individually compete with national institutions or regional research clusters. But, by building one-of-a-kind shared labs open to all researchers from every Oregon university, and requiring collaboration between multiple campuses and faculties as a condition of funding, Oregon could become a national leader in select fields and better compete for research dollars.
  • With the days of relying on its once abundant natural resources ending, Oregon needed a practical, business-led roadmap to building an innovation-based economy.

Over the next 10 months—and more than 1,200 hours of volunteer time—the council pressed the lessons of the private sector onto an open, highly competitive process with the ultimate aim of supporting and funding only those cutting edge ideas that ultimately create new jobs, new industries and a new innovation-based economy. The result: three initiatives that created Signature Research Centers with a mission to support and commercialize university research; two initiatives to help existing industries become more profitable and competitive by using innovation to make them more sustainable and efficient; and, last, the creation of a clean, green industry from wave energy.

Each biennium, Oregon InC reopens this competition, and the ongoing scrutiny doesn't stop once an idea is chosen and funded by the Legislature. To ensure goals are met on a rigorous time schedule, Oregon InC empowered an audit committee of private sector leaders to track each initiative's progress, provide technical assistance and make changes if necessary—or stop funding altogether. Four Oregon legislators are part of the committee, which meets every quarter to review results.

Ultimately, like any private sector business, initiatives continue only as long as they can show they are operating at a "profit" for the state. Those helping Oregon industries become more competitive and sustainable are expected to "graduate" to economic independence eventually, while Oregon InC's research centers reduce the role of state funding needed as they mature.

Today, the council remains an all-volunteer organization, driven by private sector leadership loyal to its key goals: Create jobs, create companies and bring outside dollars back to Oregon.