The coming year promises to be an exciting time for UO research, innovation and graduate education thanks to some new developments on the horizon. One of the biggest stories of the year will be the launch of the Oregon Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network. In July, the Oregon Legislative Assembly voted to allocate $3.75 million to support the project known as Oregon RAIN.
nchored by the University of Oregon and Oregon State University, Oregon RAIN is a visionary partnership that includes cities, counties, community colleges, chambers of commerce, and economic development agencies. Together, the partners will engage in a strategic effort to create jobs and long-range prosperity for the Willamette Valley by accelerating the growth of new products and technologies that originate from university research, local innovators, and businesses.
Last year, OSU and the UO together brought in nearly $400 million in research dollars that resulted in discoveries, innovations, and economic benefit for Oregon’s citizens. Add millions of dollars in research from the National Energy Technology Laboratory to the list and a south Willamette Valley research triangle begins to take shape. The legislature’s allocation to support Oregon RAIN signals recognition that many of the essential ingredients for converting research into products, new businesses, and employment opportunities are in place.
Oregon RAIN is the product of a regional solutions process initiated by Governor Kitzhaber that brought industry, government, and education leaders together to address the challenges of translating research discoveries and early high tech opportunities into commercial success.
The state has already established resources for the very earliest stages of entrepreneurship through gap funds established by the state’s Signature Research Centers and the University Venture Development Fund. These allow new technologies and concepts to be proven commercially viable. Next, they must be scaled up and introduced to
the market, requiring access to capital infrastructure, and business resources. Oregon RAIN will capitalize on the synergies between Oregon’s research universities and state investments, providing technology based startup ventures throughout the south Willamette Valley region with human resources and infrastructure, including access to lab space, technical and business expertise, and specialized equipment.
RAIN repurposes facilities that are in close proximity to existing research facilities to create opportunities for businesses to prove their venture as a model and position their businesses to grow. The Lane County accelerator will occupy a floor of PeaceHealth facilities next to the campus and furnish both business and program space as well as shared IT and access to community- based resources. Capital funds requested as part of the proposal will allow for the acquisition and renovation of this space. As funding permits, lab space for startup companies will become available. The new facilities will be convenient to existing research services centers—such as CAMCOR (Center for Materials Characterization in Oregon), the Microproducts Breakthrough Institute (MBI), ONAMI (Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute), and Oregon BEST (Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies)—providing emerging innovation-based companies access to equipment and facilities.
Along with physical facilities, RAIN will provide startups with knowledgeable and experienced mentors, access
to investment capital, student and postdoctoral researchers, legal expertise, and seasoned entrepreneurs who
can help develop business plans, vet technologies, and provide expertise and resources in support of new business ventures.
The University of Oregon and Oregon State University have a proven track record of turning university research into companies, which provide more than 600 jobs in Oregon and bring in nearly $70 million in revenue. Oregon RAIN will take us to the next stage of an innovation economy in the south Willamette Valley.