Mali R. Schantz-Feld (Southern Tech Sites 2007)
Kentucky's high-tech arena is growing through concentration on five research focus areas identified by the Department of Commercialization and Innovation (DCI): human health and development; the biosciences; information technology and communications; environmental and energy technologies; and materials science and advanced manufacturing.
A July announcement from Governor Ernie Fletcher and Economic Development Cabinet Secretary John Hindman heralded news that Wind Energy Corp., a high-tech startup company, will locate a 133,200-square-foot manufacturing facility in Morgantown to develop, manufacture, and sell next-generation wind turbines to the middle wind market segment. The $6.1 million project is expected to create 260 full-time jobs within five years in South Central Kentucky. The firm will also expand its headquarters operation in Elizabethtown by 35 full-time highly technical or executive positions.
The following industries in Kentucky's biotechnology sector are poised for growth: pharmaceutical and medical diagnostics; crop enhancement, fertilization and insect control; plant natural product discovery and isolation; veterinary diagnostics; animal breeding and animal feed formulation; scientific instrumentation and medical devices; alternative fuels; biomaterials production; biological industrial catalysts; and environmental bioremediation. Advanced manufacturing is keeping up with the new economy by utilizing computer visualization, computer-aided design and rapid prototyping, robotics and automation, and lean and "green" manufacturing and processing technologies. Newly developed materials are being incorporated into the production of electronic and photonic applications, fuel cell power, synthetic fuels, biomedical devices and diagnostic applications, chemical processing, and as industrial catalysts.
Last year, Kentucky BioAlliance was created and is supported by the DCI. The BioAlliance's goals include helping create jobs and spurring investments in Kentucky life sciences and biosciences; assisting in implementing statewide bioscience initiatives; helping lead the biotech industry in work force development, entrepreneurial support, and the regulatory and tax environment; and helping find new customers and markets for Kentucky biotechnology companies through networking events, collaboration tools, and industry partnering events.
In addition to the new BioAlliance, six regional Innovation and Commercialization Centers (ICC) and six local Innovation Centers (IC) help support high-tech firms through business skills training and helping to find private equity investment. From 2002 through June 2006, the ICC program helped create 190 new technology-based startup companies providing 1,211 high-tech jobs.
Incentives are attracting new ventures as well. Kentucky's high-tech companies and out-of-state firms willing to relocate to receive matching funds can take advantage of expanded incentives that match federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) awards made after January 1, 2007. High-tech investment pools and state funds managed by Commonwealth Seed Capital, LLC assist Kentucky companies during Phase 3 technology commercialization.