Just wait for jobs to come back? Forget it. Utah is thinking BiG — laying the foundation for new jobs created by incubator-hatched companies.
Last Tuesday, the BioInnovations Gateway (BiG) facility was launched as an incubator "for emerging biotech and medical device companies, a high-tech training facility for the next generation of bio-innovators, and a contract research resource for Utah's life- science industry." What makes BiG unique is that it provides the platform for bringing together the state's USTAR program for scientific innovation and actually preparing students for jobs to be created. While others talk about innovation and job creation, Utah's BiG is now bringing together scientific discovery, cultivating the next generation of innovators, and preparing students for jobs of a new economy. What an accomplishment!
Like all great ideas, BiG was started by people who shared a common vision and had the persistence to make it work. While the Governor's Office of Economic Development was the catalyst for BiG, it became a shared vision between USTAR, Salt Lake Community College and Granite School District. They saw the need to make Utah a top player in today's "flat" world where the currency needed to successfully compete is knowledge, creativity, innovation and a skilled work force. That's BiG. Biotechnology opens a new horizon for a fast-changing world, and BiG is in the forefront of helping Utah deliver a work force with the skills necessary to succeed.
Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, in his Utah visit noted we had a "phenomenal" quality of life. The problem he saw is that while we generate ideas, access to venture capital is lacking; that while we start companies, they are unable to grow fast enough. With Granite School District providing the incubator space, companies can take a risk and start up in Utah without costly capital expenses; and at the same time this allows high school students to connect classroom learning with the work world and learn what it takes to create a product and take it to market. BiG is being looked upon as a national model where schools are connected to companies of tomorrow and where students are prepared to fill the jobs yet to be discovered.
The BioInnovation Gateway is located at 2500 S. State in South Salt Lake with state-of-the-art space and equipment able to give an edge to early-stage life-science companies in a cost-effective way. The program is open-ended, thus able to accommodate new companies and individual learning needs of high school students and adults wanting to learn new skills. BiG provides the incentive for aspiring entrepreneurs to risk and for investors to help Utah's economy become a key player in today's world marketplace (contact Suzanne Winters, director 385-646-4625).
BiG comes at a time when our nation's economy is trying to bring back jobs that are gone forever. Utah's elected leaders knew when they funded USTAR the new economy required constant innovation and the development of an educated work force that was flexible and required constant learners. John Naisbitt noted in his 1984 book "Megatrends," "We are living in the period of the parentheses," in between the industrial and the information revolutions. Now, we are in a new parenthesis — from information to a global biotechnological era. While others are waiting for the old jobs to come back, Utah is looking to create ones for the new era.
BiG shows what great things can be done when individuals who have a vision can excite others with their passion, and organizations, such as school boards, higher education, elected officials and businesses, can come alive when the people in them have that vision, too.
Now, that's BiG!