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Whittaker Report

Why is Biotechnology a Hot Topic?

By Katie Terpstra

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) defines biotechnology as “the use of the cellular and molecular processes to solve problems or make products.” Applications of biotechnology include healthcare, agriculture, food processing, industrial processes, biological systems and life sciences research.

1. Biotechnology has been called the next industrial revolution. Since its inception in the late 1970’s, biotechnology has emerged as a key industry that strengthens U. S. competitiveness in an increasingly global economy and affects the quality of life for millions of Americans. A wave of major new biologic drugs is on schedule to be approved by the FDA and launched by biotech firms beginning in the second half of 2001 and extending into 2003, ushering in a new stage of rapid growth in product sales for the industry.

2. Biotech firms are hiring like mad. Despite the overall economic downturn, the industry added 12,000 jobs last year and companies plan to keep hiring through 2002. The industry’s counter-cyclical nature and the fact that young companies are moving from drug research to drug development contribute to this growth.

3. Biotech firms are profiting like mad. Standard & Poor’s projects that revenue for public biotech companies will grow to $31 billion in 2002, from an estimated $25 billion in 2001.

4. Biotech growth is not just a fad. Two important trends-the aging of baby boomers and the lengthening of life expectancy-indicate long-term growth of the biotech industry. The World Health Organization (WHO) has projected that age-related ailments such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are likely to cause about three-quarters of all deaths in developing countries in 2020.

5. Biotech plays a major role in biodefense. The events of September 11 and the anthrax attacks thrust biotechnology even further into the spotlight and accelerated efforts to be able to combat deadly biological agents.

Biotechnology has made its name with genetically engineered medicine and transgenic crops. Now that these applications are well on their way to commercialization, companies will begin applying molecular biology to the industrial arena. Look for industrial biotech to become one the next hot phrases.

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Standard & Poor’s

Does Place Matter?

By Dean Whittaker

As representatives of place, economic development professions are challenged by a“New Economy” that is global, knowledge based, and networked.  Does place offer a competitive advantage? This is a question asked by Michael Porter in his article “Clusters and the New Economics of Competition.”

In many industries competitive advantage requires innovation.  Economic clusters accelerate the pace of innovation by offering a competitive advantage through access to specialized information, support services, and technology. In addition, clusters stimulate productivity and the formation of new businesses.

A business location selected on the basis of low cost inputs may turn out to be a competitive disadvantage when the benefits of economic clusters are factored into the location decision.

What can the economic development practitioner due to stimulate the formation and development of economic clusters in their area? Working collectively to building and maintain vibrant economic clusters is a beginning. Understanding the economic forces impacting local clusters and collaborating with local institution including government and education will be key to their formation and success.

Technology Transfer – How does your state compare?

By Pete Julius

What is technology transfer? Sounds pretty interesting, doesn’t it? Well, it is.  The simple explanation of technology transfer is the ability to take an innovative idea and turn it into reality.  This can also be termed as the rate of commercialization.  OK, now that you know what it is, what does it mean for your community – -everything.  In order for your community to stay competitive, it is vital that your area compare favorably to other communities.

Research and development is one of the most important elements used by corporations to build a competitive advantage.  More importantly, it is the ability to convert those R&D expenditures into a product or service that can be commercialized.  Companies that fail to devote resources to improving their products and/or services could be very problematic.  Polaroid is a good example when they failed to allocate R&D resources to digital technology.  The same can be said for communities trying to attract and retain businesses.

Communities that fail to devote efforts to the development and implementation of new technologies face the strong possibilities of losing new business announcements to rival communities, not to mention the possibility of losing existing businesses.  So do you know where your community ranks?

The Milken Institute recently compiled a study in 2001 that ranked states according to their ability to transfer innovative thoughts into reality.  The study used the following criterion to determine the rankings: research and development expenditures, percentage of advanced degrees, number of patents, venture capital investments, new business start-ups and the number of IPOs.  The higher the ranking, the more equipped a state is capable of transferring an idea into reality.

Grid Computing

By Leigh Howe

Internet – the next generation.  When you here the word “grid”, you immediately think of the grid of electrical power.  Take the same concept to the computer and the Internet, and you come up with “grid computing”.  Grid computing is a network of linked computers that share power, storage, applications, and other resources over the Internet.  The power and speed this brings to computing will allow scientists to perform some of the most demanding tasks on the research horizon – from problems in protein folding that will form the foundations for new drugs to analyzing weather data so quickly to enable real-time forecasts down to the kilometer.  Grid computing advocates are predicting an explosion of grid activity that may make the Internet boom of the 1990’s look small.

TeraGrid.  TeraGrid is a prime example of grid computing. Funded be the National Science foundation to the tune of $53 million, the TeraGrid is a multi-year effort to build and deploy the world’s largest fastest, most comprehensive, distributed infrastructure for open scientific research.  The TeraGrid, which will be online in late 2002, will be able to handle more than 13.6 trillion calculations per seconds and will have the ability to access, store and shard more than 450 trillion bytes of information.

Plugged in.  Several heavy hitters in the computer industry are taking notice of grid computing, with the most prominent player being IBM.  They have been contracted to build TeraGrid, and have recently announced that would produce “grid-enabled” server systems.  IBM has already linked its own R&D labs around the world.  IBM is not alone though.  As you would expect, other major players in the computing industry are on board including Sun Microsystems, Compaq, NEC and Hitachi.  Microsoft engaged in a contract earlier this year to translate grid computing programming tools to Windows XP.  Also, a promising development is the growing acceptance of open-source software tools as the standard for grid computing.  

Is there enough juice?  How and when the grid computing will emerge is yet to be seen.  Will businesses incorporate the grid?  Who will lead them there?  Just as the spreadsheet drove the growth of personal computing, what application will drive the growth of grid computing?  Stay tuned.  The demand for seamless collaboration and real-time speed will propel grid computing into the mainstream before long.

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