Oregon State University continues to conduct more research than all other Oregon University System campuses combined. In 2011, Oregon State brought in $261.7 million in research funding — just below the record amount awarded in 2010, when research activity across the U.S. was greatly enhanced by federal economic recovery appropriations.
Analysts say every dollar of Oregon State research funding adds as much as $1.67 in benefit to society and also helps local businesses start, grow and add jobs. In total dollars, the worldwide societal benefits of Oregon State research in 2010 and 2011 represent a combined additional impact ranging from $107 million to $359 million.
Oregon State’s research programs are far ranging — both in their breadth and in their physical locations across Oregon and worldwide. Oregon State is among the nation’s leading research institutions in fields such as marine sciences, forestry, climate change, wave energy, sustainable food, nuclear engineering and public health.
Oregon State research funding has a vibrant and diverse ripple effect — and not just in a financial sense. University researchers help feed the world’s growing population through agricultural discoveries that bring about stronger and more productive crop varieties. They improve health and wellness through discoveries in disease prevention and treatment, nutrition and exercise. They develop new ways to generate clean, renewable power and evaluate ways to better manage, use and protect vital natural resources, such as water supplies and forests. And that is just for starters.
The size, scope and success of Oregon State research is neither short-term nor something new.For more than 40 years, Oregon State has been the state’s leading public university in producing patents — a defining measurement of innovation that propels new products and commerce. In fact, according to Oregon State’s Office of Commercialization, the 357 patents issued to the university since 1980 are more than twice the combined total of patents issued to all other OUS universities. Those patents are a major reason why Corvallis was named America’s Most Innovative City in a 2010 study from Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The impact of Oregon State research extends well into the global economy. It can be seen in the many startup companies and worldwide industry leaders with strong Oregon State connections. This impressive roster includes CH2M HILL, Intel, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Jeld-Wen, Avery Dennison, Dow Chemical, Monsanto, BASF, NuScale Power, Precision Plant Systems and Azuray Technologies.
Research conducted by Oregon State contributes to economic growth and development in Oregon, according to a study conducted by economists at ECONorthwest, in ways ranging from technology transfer to expert consultation. Contributions noted in ECONorthwest’s analysis include:
University scientists with a national reputation
These researchers are more likely to be able to attract venture capital, management and qualified employees with the technical expertise and experience necessary to start new companies
Hands-on and face-to-face involvement
The engagement of university researchers bolsters the success of new businesses by enabling discussion and sharing new ideas.
Availability of scientific labor
A new or expanding industrial business or laboratory may choose to locate in an area where local universities can provide a steady supply of highly qualified science and engineering graduates.
High quality university research
The universities with the greatest local economic impacts are generally those with the highest-quality research programs.
According to Oregon State’s Office for Commercialization and Corporate Development, between 1982 and 2011, 35 start-up companies were created as a result of Oregon State research — of which 19 are still operating.
Between 2004 and 2011 alone, these firms raised approximately $160 million in funding and currently employ 350 Oregonians. The local companies listed on the following page, all of them spinoffs, licensees or industry partners with Oregon State, help to illustrate the kinds of marketplace innovations that the university makes possible.
In addition, ECONorthwest researchers cite recent national studies indicating local industries more closely related to nearby university innovations grow faster and achieve greater economic success than other local industries. The national evidence suggests research universities lead to a 25 percent increase in local employment and payroll growth among industries related to those campuses.
Ocean waves offer a vast source of clean, renewable energy, and that potential is especially strong along the Oregon coast. Oregon State is helping make it a reality.
Through the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center — one of three nationwide — OSU is working with the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, Columbia Power Technologies, Oregon Iron Worksand others on wave and tidal energy prototypes and mitigating environmental impacts. The first large-scale deployment of the buoys in the U.S. is scheduled for installation in the summer of 2012 in Reedsport. Once completed, the 10 buoys are expected to generate about 4,140 megawatt-hours/year — enough to power approximately 375 homes.
Oregon Sea Grant is also working with coastal communities and the fishing industry to cooperatively site wave energy facilities, including a new testing facility in Newport. Studies continue on the potential of tidal energy on the Columbia River.
Making better metals
Chain saws, baseball bats, truck bodies, jet engine parts and bridges have more in common than just metal. They are all made in Oregon and account for about 55,000 jobs. To keep this industry strong, Oregon State is working through the Oregon Metals Initiative (OMI) with companies such as Daimler Trucks, Hewlett-Packard, Benchmade and Blount Manufacturing to solve problems and explore product improvements, from safer chain saws to lighter, more fuel-efficient trucks.
According to John Parmigiani, a mechanical engineer who represents Oregon State on the OMI board of directors, Oregon State researchers have conducted more than $2 million in metals-related research projects since 2007. Not only have they helped manufacturers improve processes and products, they have given students real-world experience that has frequently led to full-time jobs after graduation.
Oregon State is a national leader in microchannel technology, in which chemical reactions, heat and mass transfer and other processes are handled far more efficiently in tiny spaces about the thickness of a human hair. And the potential for this technology — including new jobs and companies for Oregon — is enormous.
One of the earliest applications to be commercialized is for kidney dialysis. Home Dialysis Plus, an Oregon-based startup, has licensed OSU technology to develop a device that will let patients with kidney failure receive dialysis treatments at home, often while they sleep.
Another application uses new microchannel coatings that may revolutionize heat exchangers, which could be used in everything from consumer electronics to miniature heat pumps and automobile cooling systems.
Wheat is big business across Oregon. In 2010, wheat generated $442 million in revenue. It’s the state’s fourth most valuable agricultural commodity. And wheat is the top export shipped through the Port of Portland.
Oregon State has developed and released 10 wheat varieties since 2002 that thrive in the relatively mild, but damp conditions of the Willamette valley as well as the drier, hotter Columbia basin. These include the herbicide-resistant strains most popular in the Pacific Northwest. In 2011, Oregon State-developed varieties accounted for 592,000 acres, or 76 percent of all winter wheat statewide. They also increased the average yield by five bushels per acre, helping Oregon wheat growers generate $17 million in additional revenues in 2011.