The face of innovation in Oklahoma is shifting. Historically, at i2E the majority of our new companies have involved technologies and concepts from life sciences (40 percent) and software/IT (40 percent), with the balance in applied sciences, sensor technologies, and other areas.
Not surprisingly, the sources of those innovations tended to cluster around the Tulsa and Oklahoma City metropolitan areas and in places like Stillwater and Norman where we have comprehensive universities with a large amount of research occurring each day. That led to most of our client companies coming fairly equally from Tulsa and Oklahoma City with smaller numbers also coming from Stillwater and Norman.
Oklahoma City companies tended to be predominantly life science firms with Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) and OU Health Sciences Center. Tulsa companies tended to be more software/IT businesses probably as a result of the University of Tulsa and its world-renowned Information Security program and a very active and well-organized group of Tulsa programmers, the Web Devs.
My how things are changing.
Our more recent experience is turning these historical norms on their ear. Software/IT has surged to the forefront of new Oklahoma companies by a large margin. Innovations are bubbling up across the state.
There is an increase in software/IT startups from Oklahoma City and new life science and energy technology companies from Tulsa. We are currently working with advanced technology companies in Claremore, Bartlesville and Ardmore.
What is going on? Our region, like the world, is becoming “flatter.”
A few years ago, Thomas Friedman came out with his groundbreaking book, “The World is Flat.” His premise was that worldwide economies were become increasingly globalized as a result of advances in technology, primarily the personal computer and advanced digital communications. These technological advances broke down geographic barriers and allowed places like India and developing nations to effectively compete and prosper in the global economy.
Although Friedman’s focus was on international markets and global impacts, his rationale applies equally to innovation within a particular country or state. The same advances in computer technology and communications allow entrepreneurs to start new companies and work from wherever they choose instead of being tied to just a handful of locations.
We will probably continue to see a majority of new innovations and start ups clustered around Oklahoma City and Tulsa as that is where the majority of Oklahoma’s population and research institutions are.
However, without the geographical limitations on the types of innovations that we have experienced in the past, we can expect the number of startups from rural Oklahoma to continue to increase.
The world is flat and that’s good for Oklahoma.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.
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