NGA Reports: R&D Key for High-Tech Growth

WASHINGTON (06/13/2000) - A solid research-and-development base is critical for states to spur high-tech economic growth, according to the final two National Governors' Association reports on the new economy.

Without access to state-of-the-art research, researchers and facilities, companies cannot continue to innovate and bring new ideas to the market, which pushes the economy, according to the larger report, "Using Research and Development to Grow State Economies."

The second report, "Building State Economies by Promoting University-Industry Technology Transfer," focuses on university innovation. The report says that the areas with the best economic growth have partnered with research universities.

John Thomasian, the director for the Center for Best Practices, which conducted the reports, said "the most intense R&D will happen at the university level."

And states must first focus their attentions there.

"You have to become strategic where R&D is in the university, making sure it is in the field you want and aligned with what's happening in the private sector."

Officials can either try to create a specialization in a field - such as biotech - or try to match university research and development with what is in the private sector.

Then, states must ensure that ideas that are created in universities can reach the market quickly, Thomasian said. States should change policies on licensing and patents so that the ideas can be released as soon as they are developed.

Once the intellectual infrastructure is established, Thomasian said, officials can look at other avenues to spark R&D, such as providing matching funds for specific projects.

To create the technology-based economy, such as those in Silicon Valley, Massachusetts' Route 128, or North Carolina's Research Triangle, the reports suggest:

* Create a strong "intellectual infrastructure" through universities and public and private research laboratories.

* Ensure that cooperation exists between universities and companies as well as amongst companies themselves.

* Enhance physical infrastructure, such as high-quality telecommunications systems and high-speed Internet connections.

* Produce highly trained and technically skilled workers.

* Help companies provide access to funds.

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