Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Firms Need Help to Commercialize Research

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Firms Need Help to Commercialize Research

Article excerpt

Commercialization of scientific research needs a bigger push from both the state and citizenry to become a more viable economic development tool, according to the head of a small Oklahoma scientific company.

While programs offered by the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology are "a good first step," more needs to be done, said Mike Roark, president and chief executive officer of Symex Corp. of Broken Arrow.

"What the (Oklahoma) State Legislature needs to do is to set aside 1 percent of the state's annual budget just for research," said Roark.

"I'd also suggest they consider offering a state income tax credit for research and continued development of commercial products and technology. The federal government has done that and it has worked.

"Everyone says what the state legislature needs is guidelines of how they should be involved, well, I'm suggesting the 1 percent figure as something to start with."

Roark said the 1 percent figure "wasn't just picked out of the air."

"Most large funds, such as pension and retirement funds set aside 1 to 1.5 percent of the expenditures for high risk investment," he noted. "I don't think that research and development should be considered high risk, but if it is, then the 1 percent figure would be a good one.

"Small companies have a hard time doing research in Oklahoma, the climate to encourage it has come undone.

"One of the problems is the way Oklahomans view research. For years people have looked at research as ways to get more wealth from the ground, they have not looked at the pure scientific research."

Some of Roark's complaints and suggestions already are being acted upon, said Lari Leaver Murry, director of research and development programs at the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST).

"We are working to bring more private industry into this program," she said. "But, most of the researchers dealing with medicine are with one of the universities or a foundation.

"Awards have been made to private companies and more awards will be made on proposals which support quality research."

Oklahoma does not have an image for scientific research, a fact which Roark said bothers him.

"When I'm talking with groups trying to get funding, especially on the east or west coast, they always ask me why my company is in Oklahoma," he said. "My answer is the same, whether the person I'm talking to is in Oklahoma or another state.

"This is my home. …

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