BIO 2006: Networking to enhance the bioeconomy

04-13-2006

I spent an incredibly interesting day at the BIO 2006 Annual International Convention on Monday. Hosted by the Biotechnology Industry Association at McCormick Place in Chicago, the annual event features an enormous trade show, and brings together individuals, organizations and companies that are thinking about biotechnology and the bio-based economy of our future.

Michigan State and Central Michigan University were there representing higher education, with a variety of universities from other parts of the country in attendance as well. There were entrepreneurs and economic development officials from Michigan, and from many other states and regions, along with representatives from Italy, Malaysia, Taiwan, Germany, France, Canada, Brazil and Japan—a real cross-section of countries, ranging from those with highly developed biotech initiatives or industries already in place, to those just starting out.

It was colorful, crowded, very interesting and very international.

I spent about half an hour at the Michigan pavilion with Governor Granholm. Lots of people came by to talk, including a fair number of MSU alums and folks who were familiar with Michigan State and what we do.

I had the opportunity to talk with the director of MEDC, the director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture, and officials from Monsanto, DuPont, Pioneer, and Edenspace Systems, a Virginia company that’s currently in discussions about establishing a local presence in Ingham County.

Everyone, whether from a public or private entity, was interested in some aspect of biotech. I outlined to them what MSU, as a technology catalyst for the bio-based economy in Michigan, might be able to offer, particularly the ways we can generate discoveries and technologies and interact with the private sector, an essential piece of MSU’s commitment to partner up with them to make the bioeconomy happen.

Regional cooperation with institutions in other parts of the Midwest is also something we need—no single university, even one as fine as Michigan State, can meet all of the challenges we face and solve all of the problems alone.

I flew back to Michigan on Monday night, so I didn’t get to hear former President Clinton speak on Tuesday. Steve Pueppke, MSU’s director of the Office of Bio-based Technologies did, and he tells me that the president noted how one of the primary challenges in this current century will be that of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and “growing our own.”

And that’s exactly why all of us were at BIO 2006 this week, to talk to one another, to figure out where we are and where we need to go, and to kick that effort into high gear.

For more information on what MSU is doing to advance the bioeconomy, check out http://bioeconomy.msu.edu/

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