Gov.'s Innovation Summit offers food for thought

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I just got back from the Idaho Dept. of Commerce’s 2009 Governor's Innovation Summit today on the fourth floor of the Stueckle Sky Center at Boise State, where I caught the presentation by the panel on higher education and research.

Through floor-to-ceiling windows, the Stueckle Center affords a ridiculously incredible view of the city. While the higher ed/research discussion was a bit dry, if I'd had the time, I'd have sat through the entire summit just for that view.

The higher ed. panel was manned by the state's university presidents: Dr. Robert Kustra, president of Boise State; Dr. Arthur Vailas, president of Idaho State University; Dr. M. Duane Nellis, president of the University of Idaho; Dr. Jerry Beck, president of College of Southern Idaho and Dr. Harold Blackman from CAES (the Center for Advanced Energy Studies.) One unifying theme coming from the education heads was the idea of cross-pollination: sharing information and resources not only among the universities but between departments within them, i.e. law students should be working with business students on patent regulations. Funding, of course, popped up as well as the need to put kids on a trajectory to college long before high school. They also discussed basic research and development versus applied R&D in conjunction with work within the infrastructure of the government, public arenas and education to maintain and foster growth in Idaho's tech sectors.

The council is made up of a number of business managers including Jefferson Jewell, managing director of Blackfin Technologies (Boise); Robin Woods, president of Alturas Analytics (Moscow); Douglas Sayer, founder of Premier Technology (Blackfoot); Steve Hodges, president of M2M Communications (Boise); Jason Stolworthy, commercialization manager for Battelle Energy Alliance (Idaho Falls); Mark Warbis, director of communications for Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter; Donald A. Dietrich, Commerce Director; and Milford Terrell, a member of the State Board of Education.

Though free and open to the public, less than 100 people sat in the audience—including only one kid who looked like a student (he was the only person in there with a backpack). Most of the attendees wore suits and bore name tags that identified them as business owners or members of government agencies. While not the most exciting event, the Innovation Summit—and the announcement that Micron received a cool $5 mil in stimulus funds for work on LED technology—did serve as a reminder that technology is still high on Gov. Otter's list of priorities. I think he should add "build more places like the Stueckle Center" to that list.

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