Carolina: Sparking innovation and job growth across Oklahoma – The Journal Record

Michael Carolina

Can Oklahoma become a state known for innovation excellence?

In the late 1980s, Oklahoma’s Legislature looked at the oil bust-ravaged economic landscape of our state and decided it had to create a better future for all Oklahomans. So, in 1987 the Legislature created the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology with a mission to grow and diversify the state’s economy.

OCAST has pursued our goal of creating a better future for Oklahoma by creating a suite of innovative, peer-reviewed programs that support technology-based research and development, promote entrepreneurship and encourage the launch of new businesses across the state.

Working with our partners at i2E Inc., the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance and the New Product Development Center at Oklahoma State University, OCAST’s efforts have evolved into a strategic initiative and consortium we call the Oklahoma Innovation Model. So, after 30-plus years of existence, where are we in the pursuit of our mission? While it will never be finished, we have clear evidence that OCAST and the Oklahoma Innovation Model are having a major impact on the state’s economy.

For instance, we have documented a cumulative 22:1 return on investment of state-appropriated dollars over our history. That means for every dollar of public funds invested in OCAST, the agency returns $22. The return calculation includes sales revenue by companies created along the way, grant dollars generated by OCAST-supported researchers, capital investments and total payroll of Oklahomans employed by ventures we have supported.

Today, OCAST and our partners support some of the state’s most exciting new growth-oriented ventures and emerging technologies. Some examples of the innovators who have benefited from the Oklahoma Innovation Model include:

While there have been many achievements supported by OCAST over the years, we could do so much more.

Legislative appropriations for OCAST have declined 39% since 2009, meaning we can provide support for less than half of the qualified proposals that are submitted to us.

It is my hope that our state legislators understand the value that OCAST brings to our state’s economy and, accordingly, increase the agency’s funding to ensure a brighter future for all Oklahomans and truly make Oklahoma known for innovation excellence.

Michael Carolina is the executive director of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology

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