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September 23, 2010

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Oregon Wins National Competition to Bring New Technologies to Market Faster

Oregon has been named one of six winners of the i6 Challenge, a new $12 million competition by the federal government to identify the nation's best ideas for technology commercialization and entrepreneurship.

The $1 million award, announced Thursday in Washington, D.C., by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, will be shared by Oregon's three Signature Research Centers (SRCs), which were created by Gov. Ted Kulongoski and the Oregon Legislature to spur economic development by turning university-based research into new products, companies and jobs.

The SRCs—the Oregon Translational Research & Drug Development Institute (OTRADI); the Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center (Oregon BEST) and the Oregon Nanoscience & Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI)—will use the grant to develop mentoring and business assistance resources for innovators and startup companies; increase commercialization investments; provide internships and residencies to students and faculty researchers; attract new investment capital to Oregon, and create an independent venture-backed bioscience accelerator program.

"This national award validates our innovative approach to economic development here in Oregon, bringing industry and university researchers together in targeted sectors to collaboratively commercialize new products and technologies—which translates into new jobs," said Gov. Kulongoski.

Additional funding could potentially follow shortly when the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation award a total of up to $6 million in supplemental funding to their Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grantees that are associated or partnered with the winning teams.

"The state's investment in its Signature Research Centers continues to pay real dividends," said Tim McCabe, director of the Oregon Business Development Department. "This grant will give us more tools to help businesses and entrepreneurs create the jobs that will help Oregon grow out of this recession with a stronger and more diverse economy."

ONAMI, OTRADI and Oregon BEST are all initiatives of the Oregon Innovation Council, which was created in 2005 to bring together the private sector, the state's four research universities and government to spur an innovation-based economy. The SRCs foster collaboration among hundreds of university researchers and provide support to a statewide network of shared-user R&D labs in green building and renewable energy; nanoscience and microtechnology, and biomedical applications and new drug development.

With the grant money, the three SRCs will each launch entrepreneur-in-residence programs, teaming experienced business professionals in their technological areas with new entrepreneurs in settings to identify and speed commercialization. The funding will also expand gap funding programs that support early private-public ventures, and mentor students to be well prepared to work in and launch entrepreneurial ventures.

"All three signature research centers created by the state offer Oregon businesses and researchers a unique suite of tools, and it's wonderful to collectively receive national recognition for our innovative programs and approach to job creation," said David Kenney, president and executive director of Oregon BEST.

OTRADI will use some of the funding to develop the Oregon Bioscience Accelerator & Entrepreneur Center, an independent, venture-backed bioscience incubator focused on biomedical commercialization, including financing and managing earliest stage startup companies.

"While the three SRC's are focused on three different sectors, there are fundamental entrepreneurship aspects—outreach, finance, business expertise, etc.—that apply across the board, so we're focusing on those aspects to fuel job creation," said Dr. Patricia Beckmann, president and executive director of OTRADI.

"This grant is clear recognition at the national level that what we're doing in Oregon—tapping our intellectual capital and teaming the business community with academia to launch startups and help existing companies—is working well," said Skip Rung, president and executive director of ONAMI.

The six i6 Challenge Grants were awarded to six different EDA districts in the United States. Oregon is part of the Seattle Region, which includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Washington, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Federated States of Micronesia, the Rep. of Marshall Islands and the Rep. of Palau. More information on the i6 Challenge program.

About OTRADI: In only three years of existence, OTRADI has leveraged more than $37 million in federal and industry research grants and recruited 115 OTRADI-affiliated university researchers and companies from Oregon and elsewhere in the U.S. It operates a fee-for-service based shared-user facility focused on bioscience and drug development including high-throughput screening, cellular analysis and toxicology. In collaboration with the Oregon University System and Oregon Health & Science University's planned Life Science Collaborative Complex, OTRADI is developing a new bioscience accelerator concept with venture capital backing.

About Oregon BEST: Also in three years, Oregon BEST's 180 member faculty have attracted more than $27 million in research funding from federal, industry and foundation sources to Oregon. Oregon BEST has developed a network of seven shared-user research facilities at four universities focused on renewable energy and the sustainable built environment. These facilities specialize in research ranging from solar and wind energy to high-tech building insulation, windows, architecture, eco-districts and more.

About ONAMI: ONAMI works with 250 affiliated researchers at Oregon Health & Science University, Oregon State University, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Portland State University and the University of Oregon; industry partners and facilities users now number more than 100. ONAMI-affiliated researchers have been awarded $171 million since 2004. ONAMI gap funding of $2.8 million has leveraged $70 million investment into 15 portfolio companies, including a recent $50 million investment in Home Dialysis Plus, the state's largest ever first-round financing.

About The Oregon Innovation Council: Oregon InC is a private-public statewide advisory council created by the 2005 Oregon Legislature and charged with developing a biennial public investment plan to stimulate economic development and job growth across the state. The council works in partnership with the Oregon Business Development Department, which works to create, retain, expand and attract businesses that provide sustainable, living-wage jobs for Oregonians through public-private partnerships, leveraged funding, and support of economic opportunities for Oregon companies and entrepreneurs.