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altState research and development budgets were challenged last year by an international recession but as I look across the nation, a handful of innovation-based state agencies continue to make progress even in difficult times. The Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology is one of those.

In my role as president and CEO of Innovation America, a national organization with a mission to accelerate the growth of the entrepreneurial innovation economy in America, I look for best practice technology-based economic development agencies that are "game changers” in their respective states. OCAST is one of the best examples I have seen for carrying out a state’s initiative to develop its innovation economy.

OCAST has a robust pipeline of programs that includes applied research, health research, small-business innovation research (SBIR), research and development intern partnerships, nanotechnology, plant research, manufacturing excellence and technology commercialization. This pipeline is vital to the infrastructure that can help transform a state’s economy.

So, what are the attributes of a nationally recognized innovation-based economic development model? My answer is one that has a sustained history of success; bipartisan support from the governor and legislature; involvement from the private sector; a focus on return on investment; and accountability to the legislature, taxpayers and administration.

Through its programs and services, OCAST helps build Oklahoma’s research and innovation capacity that will advance society, invent products, diversify rural and urban economies, and discover medical breakthroughs that will save millions of lives and improve our quality of life.

By any measure, OCAST is competitive with the best innovation-based models. Its rigorous peer review process guarantees the best science and technology projects are funded. OCAST has consistently delivered value in terms of return on taxpayer-invested dollars, overall economic impact, jobs created, and increase in per capita income.

In 2006 and 2009, two major national innovation conferences were held in Oklahoma — the State Science and Technology Institute and the National Association of Seed and Venture Funds. As a founding board member of both of these associations, I can say there is no doubt that the national reputation of OCAST and its nationally acclaimed strategic partner, i2E, were a driving force in the decision to hold these conferences in Oklahoma City.

Not only is OCAST recognized nationally as world-class model for helping Oklahoma diversify and grow its economy and create high-skill and high-wage jobs, but also Oklahoma is a recognized leader in state policies that provide the enabling foundation for a sustainable innovation ecosystem. In addition to OCAST, Oklahoma created EDGE (Economic Development Generating Excellence) — a bold state-funded research endowment fund. Currently at $150 million, the goal is to grow the fund to $1 billion to help transform the state’s knowledge infrastructure.

OCAST is uniquely positioned to help drive Oklahoma’s continuing journey into science and technology innovations. My message is to embrace innovation and support the time-tested strategies developed at OCAST — future generations of Oklahomans will be the beneficiaries.

Bendis is founding president and CEO of Philadelphia-based Innovation America (

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Author: Richard Bendis