If you were looking for a tonic to last week’s steady servings of dreary economic news, you could have done a lot worse than to check out Friday’s open house at the Microproducts Breakthrough Institute.
The institute — a collaboration between Oregon State University and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory — recently finished work on 12 new labs at its facility in Building 11 on the Corvallis campus of Hewlett-Packard.
On Friday, 500 or so people showed up to tour the facilities. Dignitaries such as U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and OSU President Ed Ray were on hand.
But, with all due respect to Wyden and Ray, the really exciting thing was learning more about how facilities like the Microproducts Breakthrough Institute offer a hand to companies trying to do, well, exciting things.
A great example is Home Dialysis Plus, the Oregon startup with offices in Corvallis and Portland, which is working to develop a kidney dialysis machine for home use. The company’s Corvallis offices are in Building 11, where it enjoys access to the institute’s capacities, such as design and analysis tools and fabrication equipment.
Arguably more important, the company also can access OSU experts in microtechnology.
And Home Dialysis also can draw on the mid-valley’s deep reservoir of knowledge in “microfluidics,” which deals with the behavior, precise control and manipulation of fluids on a tiny scale.
Breakthroughs in microfluidics made at the H-P campus in Corvallis paved the way for the ink-jet printer. Tomorrow, they could offer a better solution for dialysis patients. After tomorrow, who knows?
We know this: These kinds of breakthroughs come through lots of hard work by many smart people. Having access to other smart people — not to mention the types of services offered by the Microproducts Breakthrough Institute — makes the road a little easier.
The companies showcased at Friday’s open house all are working on some big ideas wrapped up in little packages. Some of those companies likely will make some money in the long run. Some of them could make the world a better place.
And if they create some new jobs for the mid-valley, well, that’s a side effect we can deal with.