Executive Brief

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April 2024

A Once-In-A-Generation Opportunity for Oregon to Lead in Semiconductors, AI Computing & Climate Tech

Ample federal research funding and close collaboration between tech companies and higher ed are widely recognized as key factors in the formation of Silicon Valley.  To be sure, some of the most successful, rising tech hubs of the past twenty-five years–Toronto/Waterloo, Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Seattle–also benefited from these same ingredients.  The CHIPs Act and Inflation Reduction Act–the latter with nearly $60B in funding for clean-tech manufacturing–are just two of the potentially transformative sums of federal funding available to catalyze and enhance startup and innovation ecosystems.  We are likely to see the acceleration of multiple new tech hubs throughout the U.S. over the next 10 years in regions that manage to marshall local resources and land some of this federal funding.

The Oregon Legislative Session may have ended in the first part of March, but there has been no slowdown in TAO’s advocacy work in the ensuing weeks. The focus of this work has centered on developing and strengthening linkages between Oregon’s higher education institutions and the region’s tech sector, with an eye toward securing federal (and other) sources of funding to support the region’s innovation economy.  The following are some highlights from just two weeks in April:

Technology Councils of North America (TECNA) D.C. Fly-In
In early April, members of TAO’s AI + Data Community joined delegations from around the U.S. in Washington, D.C. for meetings with federal officials, including Laurie Locascio, the Director of NIST and numerous members of Congress, including Senator Ron Wyden and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici.  Throughout our two days in D.C. we discussed what it might take to create an AI Research + Innovation Center in Oregon building on recent investments in Oregon’s universities, intellectual property issues with respect to content creators and AI, workforce issues, amortization and the federal R&D Tax Credit, CHIPS Act/Semiconductor investments, as well as new NIST guidelines regarding March-in Rights that potentially impact commercialization of federal research by universities and the private sector.  

NDU Site Visit
Later the same week as the TECNA DC Fly-In, TAO partnered with the National Defense University, the Oregon Governor’s Office, Intel, HP, OSU, OMEP, Provenance Chain Network, NuScale Power, and the Oregon Innovation Foundation to host a high-level delegation of leaders from throughout the U.S. Department of Defense.  In addition to organizing a networking event and tours of academic and corporate labs and production facilities, we showcased all of the ways in which Oregon is a national leader in R&D, spanning semiconductors, robotics, 3D printing, climate technology and energy, and oceanographic research.  This included the federally-recognized CorMic Tech Hub in Corvallis, which is focused on microfluidics technology commercialization opportunities, including a new joint-venture between HP and NVIDIA with technology developed here in Oregon that will be used to power next generation chip sets for AI computing.  The NDU has committed to sending multiple delegations to Oregon next year.  

Collaborative Innovation Complex, OSU AI Week
A very busy second week in April concluded with participation by TAO and its members in OSU’s inaugural “AI Week”, the highlight of which was the commemoration of the Lori & Jensen Huang Collaborative Innovation Complex, which includes a world-class supercomputer that will be utilized for cutting-edge research, including in areas such as climate change and health.  

Oregon’s Independent Colleges and Universities
On Monday of this week TAO joined Ben Cannon, Executive Director of the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission in presenting to the board of the Oregon Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (OAICU), which consists of the Presidents of the private colleges and universities in Oregon.  Topics included statewide efforts to provide training, education and resources to students and professionals from populations that have been historically under-represented in critical sectors such as tech, healthcare, and manufacturing (Future Ready Oregon), new approaches to helping students to pay for higher education degrees, this year’s FAFSA debacle, impacts on workforce and higher education from the adoption of generative AI, as well as skills and occupations that are increasingly in-demand among the local tech industry.  

TAO Board Meeting and Networking Reception at the University of Oregon in Eugene
On Tuesday, TAO held its quarterly board meeting at the University of Oregon, where we were joined by the President of the University of Oregon, John Scholz, as well as leaders of UO’s School of Computer & Data Sciences, UO’s Business School, Cybersecurity programs (including ORTSOC), Career Services, and founders and executives from many of TAO’s member companies in the Southern Willamette Valley.  Multiple TAO member companies from around the state expressed interest in hosting students for visits, taking on interns, and contributing ideas for capstone projects.

Fresh off of securing NSF ENGINE funding for its SEQUINS proposal focused on commercializing innovative products and services in the electric power sector, PSU is also vying to bring yet another federally-recognized tech hub to Oregon focused on investments and innovations in clean energy storage and software technologies that can deliver energy on demand.  Notably, PSU is also hosting the inaugural WINGS Climate Tech Conference, which takes place later today at Viking Pavilion.  TAO brought together a diverse consortium of organizations spanning foundations, public, private, academic and nonprofit sectors, which have been working for months to put together this conference, showcasing the climate tech innovation in the region and providing a platform for the formulation of policies and programs to strengthen the region’s position as a leader in climate solutions.

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