Attorney Don Krahmer is featured in the following article on volunteer think tanks and Oregon's economy. Originally published in the Portland Business Journal 3/23/2004.
Innovation Network sets sights on economy
Even though Oregon's economy has scraped along for the last few years, the state has several optimistic business leaders who believe that the region can achieve more than a mere recovery.
Take the Innovation Network, a business development group that aims to develop technology-linked initiatives related to Oregon's health care, apparel and energy industries.
The group is aiming high: Peggy Miller, Innovation Network's chairwoman and president of the Concero Inc. Web-based employee benefits distribution software company, believes the network could help generate an additional $1 billion apiece in revenue for each of the three target areas, called "hot teams."
"If you think about $1 billion, that's like five Electro Scientific Industries, or three Mentor Graphics," Miller said. "We're talking a big improvement on our economy if we're successful."
Toward that end, the Innovation Network hopes to spur development -- and create new "clusters," or industry segments -- in areas beyond the state's existing technological core industries. Semiconductor makers, for instance, can work with apparel companies to develop clothing-based sensors that can detect whether an athlete is susceptible to heat stroke or heart palpitations.
"We're trying to create new industries by putting together the strengths we already have," said Miller. "Hopefully, we'll be able to [induce] another $3 billion."
The InnoTech event, which takes place next week at the Oregon Convention Center, will serve as the Innovation Network's coming-out party.
"It's our most public event so far," said Molly Moore, the Portland Business Alliance's new economy manager.
The volunteer-driven Innovation Network uses administrative resources from the PBA; Moore serves as the network's project manager.
The Innovation Network is currently identifying companies with which it will work as it builds its target industries. From there, the Innovation Network will seek investors and other fund sources that will drive its future efforts.
The group, which meets about once a month, consists of senior executives, academicians and various investors.
"We're looking at the strengths we have and are getting people to work together in innovative ways," Miller said. "We're consciously trying to drive cluster development rather than have it happen by accident."
Don Krahmer, an attorney for Portland-based Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt and perhaps Portland's premier business think-tank participant, calls the Innovation Network "a watering hole that'll help raise awareness" of Oregon's tech-savvy benefits.
As such, Krahmer believes the network will sway makers of semiconductors, measuring equipment and display systems to impel the state's other growing industries.
For instance, Innovation Network will push the concept of health care digitization, or computerizing such tasks as medical information management, imaging and simulation.
Oregon's nascent biotechnology field, to name one area, relies heavily on equipment that creates, enhances and analyzes various biological images. Software designers could thus work with biotech and other health care experts to create useful programs that are eventually manufactured and exported worldwide.
In terms of energy, Innovation Network participants believe digital technology can help create better sensors that monitor energy production, as well as how efficiently a company uses its energy. The network further believes the state's technology outfits can help minimize environmental damage caused by various energy sources.
"We can use our semiconductor and software strengths to improve energy generation distribution," Miller explained. "With all of the energy companies we have here, we have the base to be a leader in the smart energy field."
In the apparel arena, Innovation Network has coined a new term, "smart apparel." The far-sweeping moniker refers mainly to using technology to study better ways to outfit the human body.
"This could mean garments that enhance performance and/or provide therapy or monitoring on the health side," said Miller.
The Innovation Network emerged last spring after PBA asked New Economy Strategies, a Washington, D.C., consultant, to help Oregon stimulate its high-tech economy.
Along with the three hot-team areas, the group will also study ways to develop the red-hot nanotechnology field, as well as embedded information technology systems. Among other functions, embedded information technology can help create computer security programs.
Furthermore, the Innovation Network wants to work with universities on such matters as technology transfer, or ways that colleges can benefit financially from technology it develops.
"Will we be able to generate $1 billion from each of these three [hot-team] industries in the next six months? No," Moore said. "But we can use things such as tech transfer to eventually get there."
Which, said Perkins Coie attorney Brent Bullock, is the network's main mission.
"Our economy still isn't strong; we're not out of the recession yet," said Bullock, the network's former chairman and a corporate securities specialist. "But our challenge is to put the resources out there to help stimulate a speedy recovery."
Donald L. Krahmer, Jr.