OCAST President Impressed with State's Technological Progress

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Spurred by its programs for technology development, transfer and commercialization, since 1987 clients of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology have attracted more than $500 million in private investment and federal funds to the state.

As the state's only agency devoted exclusively to technology, OCAST was created 13 years ago to encourage economic development in the science and technology sector.

Dr. William Sibley, OCAST president, said that since his return to the state last year after a 10-year absence, he has been impressed with how much Oklahoma has progressed technologically. He said this is particularly true of OCAST's assistance in helping firms develop their projects, from idea to product, and making the latter a viable concern.

Aimed at boosting initiatives that lead to high-paying jobs in technological fields, one of the center's most recent endeavors was to support the University of Central Oklahoma's proposal for a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation's Partnerships for Innovation Program.

Sheri Stickley, director of OCAST's Technology Development Programs Division, said that the UCO program will make it possible for students who major in fields other than computer-related majors to take courses leading to a minor in "Strategic Technology."

This program offers ways to increase the information technology skills of students at both the undergraduate and secondary school levels. The goal, Stickley said, is to be in a position to offer information technology firms an expanded pool of potential employees with sufficient technological skills and adaptability.

"Of particular note," said Stickley, "is the emphasis on increasing the number of women and minorities in this pool."

Sibley said that OCAST is able to assist faculty with their own NSF proposals. Although most universities have officials charged with developing their research programs, Sibley said, OCAST has been pleased to offer its expertise when requested.

"OCAST is able to interconnect universities with business," he said, "to be the catalyst between universities and business."

OCAST has also developed an intern partnership program targeted at increasing the number of scientists and engineers available to Oklahoma industry. This program, available through both two- and four-year colleges and universities, provides students and faculty with research and development experience in a workplace environment.

Intern partnerships have been established at Carl Albert State College, Western Oklahoma State College, Cameron University, UCO, Redlands Community College, Northern Oklahoma College, the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and OSU-Tulsa.

OCAST also maintains the Oklahoma Technology Center. The Tech Center was established to encourage technology transfer and commercialization and stimulate investment in new advanced- technology firms.

OCAST contracts with the private, nonprofit Oklahoma Technology Development Corp. to operate the center. Having just completed its second full year of operation in September, the center has served more than 460 clients.

"Firms served have been diverse, including those in information technology, biosciences, energy and environment and manufacturing," said Stickley.

To assure geographical accessibility, she said, the Tech Center operates offices in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Norman, Stillwater and Lawton. The center serves three general groups:

* Individuals interested in learning how to start a technology firm.

* High-tech firms with a business plan who are ready, with assistance, to make a presentation to an investment group.

* Established high-tech firms with business-growth opportunities. …