Startups fueled by OSU research tell stories to economic development commission

2013-02-14T07:00:00Z Startups fueled by OSU research tell stories to economic development commissionBy JAMES DAY, Corvallis Gazette-Times Corvallis Gazette Times
February 14, 2013 7:00 am  • 

One of the key goals of the Corvallis Economic Development Commission has been to make it easier for startups built on research at Oregon State University to get up and running.

Wednesday night at the Linus Pauling Science Center at OSU the commission and an audience of about 40 people heard three success stories in that area.

Representatives from NuScale, which designs small-scale nuclear reactors; Inpria, which is working on chemical components for semiconductors; and solar-panel maker Inspired Light, discussed startup hangups and challenges.

“We’re here because the people and technology were here,” said Andrew Grenville, CEO of Inpria, which hopes to start providing its components to companies such as Intel by 2015.

“We grew out of the university. It’s natural for us to be here.”

Frank Cloutier, a former Hewlett-Packard employee who helped develop the inkjet printer, noted that downsizing at HP has led to a lot of excellent employees becoming available.

“The quality of the talent pool and the breadth of the talent pool are really impressive here,” said Cloutier, who has been working on his solar panels project for two years.

“There is a lot of maturity in the talent pool plus some young and energetic people that are just amazing.”

Kent Welter, safety manager at NuScale, was the second employee hired by the company, which started in an old bank building near the McDonald’s in downtown Corvallis.

Welter, an OSU graduate, was attracted to the company because of the university’s top 10 nuclear engineering program, the region’s talent pool, and because he wanted to return to Corvallis.

Welter also could not resist a playful joke concerning another of Oregon rising’s industries: “The No. 1 reason we located here was craft beer!”

All three panelists noted that Corvallis faces challenges from communities such as Boston and Silicon Valley in recruiting and retaining talent and that housing prices and Oregon’s state income tax also factor into the equation.

“There is a critical mass of talent in the Bay Area,” said Grenville. “All you have to do is go to a coffee store, and it’s there.”

A second panel, moderated by Benton County Commissioner Jay Dixon, discussed what success in economic development might look like in five years.

“At the end of the day, it’s about job creation,” said Ron Adams, OSU executive associate vice president for research, “with measurements based on customer revenue and private investment.”

Two other panelists, Corvallis Mayor Julie Manning and Sean Stevens, regional representative for Business Oregon, noted that preserving Corvallis’ quality of life also was a key component.

Adams joined the panel because state Sen. Betsy Close (legislative matters) and state Rep. Sara Gelser (family emergency) had to bow out.

The commission welcomed a new member Wednesday. Hewlett-Packard vice president Tim Weber succeeded HP’s Sam Angelos, who retired from the company.

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day

Copyright 2015 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(1) Comments

  1. gadfly
    Report Abuse
    gadfly - February 14, 2013 10:22 am
    The main problem with this 'spin-off' concept is the huge divide between the real world (the world of competition and capitalism) and the academic world. I don't think most academic folks are capable of understanding the effort it takes to be successful in the global economy. It's fun to play with the ideas, but to actually make them happen and make money is a whole other world. NuScale is a good example... where it's fun to picture parking your sweet little nuke at the Multiplex, but less fun to envision the obstacles between here and there. There is a natural divide between the academy and the real world, and I suspect it'll remain intact.
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