Is West Virginia a Place to Innovate?

Although the state has numerous organizations working to increase innovation, critics question whether entrepreneurs are encouraged to develop and profit from their ideas.

by Charleston Daily Mail / December 10, 2014

(TNS) -- Can people in the Mountain State with great ideas for new products and services thrive in our state’s legal and cultural climate?

Are entrepreneurs — people who work to create their own jobs instead of trying to find an existing job — encouraged in this state to develop and profit from their ideas?

Evidently not, according to a Harvard Business Review article by Anne Marie Knott.

West Virginia is one of five states that doesn’t score on a research quotient measure in Knott’s Innovation Friendly ranking.

The best states for innovation, according to Knott’s measures, are California and Minnesota. The Golden State has 235 firms the conduct research & development. Minnesota has 38 public firms conducting R&D. West Virginia, according to the report, has no public firms doing R&D.

It’s not for lack of trying lately, but establishing an innovation culture takes time and continuous effort. The state has numerous people and organizations working to increase innovation and entrepreneurship in the state.

At West Virginia University, the LIINK program, Linking Innovation, Industry and Commercialization, is working to accelerate the commercialization of research results and strengthen regional economic impact by creating new and improving traditional ties to industry and regional entrepreneurial universities.

In the Charleston, Huntington and Ashland, Ky., area, businesses and government leaders created Advantage Valley to showcase the region’s business assets, workforce, culture and quality of life and abundant supplies of local energy (electricity, natural gas, coal, etc.) and rich history as a center for energy, chemicals, manufacturing, research and transportation.

The West Virginia Regional Technology Park, the former research and development center of Union Carbide Corp., is now operated by the state’s Higher Education Policy Commission. The Tech Park adds significant capacity to the state’s academic, research and economic development missions.

And the volunteers of Create West Virginia envision a West Virginia that is creative, confident, diverse, technologically advanced, and able to complete among the most innovative, dynamic, prosperous, and creative communities in the world.

Contributing columnist Gene Coulson wrote in Monday’s Daily Mail editorial page of the need for entrepreneurship education for every student every year. “We need to nurture the creativity that the youngest of our students bring with them to their first days and years of school,” Coulson wrote.

Coulson’s advice is a good start, but we must not wait until today’s youth grow up to start an innovation economy.

The Republican dominated 2015 Legislature has a lot on its plate. Helping the state improve its innovation economy is one of them.

©2014 the Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, W.Va.)