News

Portland Business Journal: Lemelson, PSU forge a path to economic development
Author: Malia Spencer, Portland Business Journal
Posted: September 7, 2016

Read the original story from the Portland Business Journal.

The Lemelson Foundation, Business Oregon and Portland State University Center for Entrepreneurship are teaming on a program designed to boost invention and entrepreneurship statewide.

The InventOR program is modeled on PSU’s successful Cleantech Challenge, in which 10 teams from colleges and universities across the state compete for $50,000. The challenge is designed to get students thinking about environmental problems and then develop prototypes aimed at solving those issues.

InventOR looks to create more opportunities for entrepreneurs across the state and build the capacity for local, regional support while advancing Oregon’s manufacturing-based economy.

InventOR looks to create more opportunities for entrepreneurs across the state and build… more

The idea is to help students envision themselves as inventors and problem solvers, and perhaps build businesses based on the work.

This year, 32 students from seven Oregon universities participated.

For the statewide program, The Lemelson Foundation is kicking in $481,000 for two years while Business Oregon is contributing $95,000 from the governor’s strategic reserve fund. The initiative will culminate in a statewide competition for prize money. The first competition is slated for fall 2017.

Unlike the PSU program that targets cleantech invention, InventOR will allow colleges, universities and community colleges to create their own emphasis based on regional business strengths. The common theme through each regional competition is the spotlight on invention and prototyping.

The purpose, said Heather Stafford, assistant director of innovation and entrepreneurship for Business Oregon, is to create more opportunities for entrepreneurs across the state and build the capacity for local, regional support while advancing Oregon’s manufacturing-based economy.

Oregon frequently ranks as one of the top states in terms of its economic dependence on manufacturing.

“Our interest at Business Oregon is really about creating more opportunities for all,” said Stafford. “Our GDP is between No. 1 and No. 2 for dependence on manufacturing in the country. The partnership with Lemelson and PSU Center for Entrepreneurship, the three of us came together to look at how we could add more capacity for hardware based invention.”

The Lemelson Foundation looks to improve people’s lives through invention.

“We see it as inspiration for participants to create inventions and institutions to build capacity around supporting invention,” said Rachel Jagoda Brunette, program officer for The Lemelson Foundation. “Everything from facilities to faculty that support entrepreneurship and the administration. And in the long term we hope students that successfully participate can inspire the next generation of students to continue to do the same thing.”

PSU will help train other institutions based on what the school has learned from four years of the Cleantech Challenge, said Angela Jackson, director of the PSU Business Accelerator.

Schools will apply this fall and then work with the PSU team to create their own competitions. Regional winners will then compete statewide.

“What we are really working on with this program and others is the connectivity piece,” Stafford said. “Oregon is large geographically and there is a large population in Portland, but lots of communities are under served by rich resources, we want to connect them more efficiently to those resources.”