Windows that clean themselves
Cars that drive themselves
Non-toxic glue that seals surgical incisions better than stitches
These are just some of the cutting-edge products derived from the technologies being developed in the Pittsburgh Region today. Some come from university labs, some from corporate R&D (Research & Development) centers.
Other regions have one major research university.
But only a few have two, like the Pittsburgh Region.
Other regions have corporate and government R&D centers.
But only a few have multiple large centers. Even fewer have them in fields as diverse as information technology, life sciences, and advanced materials. The Pittsburgh Region has over 150 centers covering all of these areas.
Other regions have academic medical centers.
But the Pittsburgh Region has one of the two largest in the country.
The Pittsburgh Region is one of the few regions in the world to have all of these R&D assets, and to have both university and corporate research strengths in each of the major technologies that are driving most major product innovations today.
The Pittsburgh Region’s heavy concentration of Research & Development is the major economic engine for our future. Why?
There are good jobs in R&D —and also in the businesses that supply products and services to researchers
First of all, there are thousands of jobs – high quality jobs – in the labs and research centers of the universities, medical center, and corporations. These are not just jobs for Ph.D.s, but for high school and community college grads as well. These jobs are located throughout the region, not just in the City of Pittsburgh. And the labs and research centers purchase products and services from businesses all across the region, creating even more jobs.
So growth in R&D means new jobs for the region. But that’s just the beginning.
Even more good jobs come from the new businesses created from R&D, and from the expansion of existing businesses through R&D
The people working in the labs and research centers generate something that companies throughout the world are desperate for — innovation. They create ideas for new products and services. Ideas to make existing products and services cheaper and more effective.
Companies survive and thrive
Companies that innovate grow and create new jobs.
Companies that don’t innovate shrink and die.
So growth in R&D also helps preserve existing jobs and create new jobs in companies that produce and deliver the products and services that spring from new ideas.
If we want more jobs, we need more companies. If we want more companies, we need more innovation.
How do we get more innovation?
Continued and expanded state and federal funding for the research programs at the University of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), and Carnegie Mellon University is critical to the continuation and growth of R&D in the region. Most research breakthroughs are years in the making, and so long-term funding to sustain research programs is critical.
Federal and state funding is also needed to support research in corporate R&D centers. Programs like The Technology Collaborative, the Life Sciences Greenhouse, the federal SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) and SBTT (Small Business Technology Transfer) programs, and the new Pennsylvania Nanomaterials Commercialization Center support both corporate and university research designed to develop new products and make existing manufacturing processes more efficient.
More dollars for R&D means more jobs in R&D. But where will the researchers go? Oakland, the home of the region’s major research universities and medical center, is running out of space. Projections indicate that if research continues to grow at its current pace, there won’t be enough space to accommodate it within a few years. Even today, many corporate R&D centers would like to be close to the universities and medical center, but it’s difficult to find space to locate.
There is land – a lot of land – available for both university and corporate R&D facilities very close to Oakland. It’s located at the Pittsburgh Technology Center along the Monongahela River and at the former LTV Coke Works site just upriver. What’s missing are adequate transportation connections that can connect these riverfront sites to the heart of Oakland and make them virtual extensions of the Oakland campuses. Imagine the riverfronts with buildings housing thousands of research workers and dozens of new startup companies! (for more information, click here.)
An obvious economic development priority for the region should be keeping the corporate R&D centers that exist here, and attracting new ones. The existing centers are major sources of employment and innovation for the region. Each of them employs hundreds of workers. For example,
- Alcoa’s Research Facility in Westmoreland County is the largest light-metals research facility in the world.
- PPG has three of its four R&D Centers in Allegheny County, developing new technologies in chemicals, coatings, and glass.
- Bayer’s Material Science division is headquartered on the Parkway West and conducts most of its worldwide R&D there.
The Pittsburgh region’s strengths in university research help attract new corporate R&D centers to the region. Seagate Technologies located its R&D facility in Pittsburgh’s Strip District several years ago because the talent and technology it needed were based at Carnegie Mellon University. In the fall of 2005, Google announced it would locate a new R&D center on the campus of Carnegie Mellon for similar reasons.
At one level, these R&D centers are corporate facilities like manufacturing plants, distribution centers, and headquarters operations – a region’s business climate is an important factor in the decision as to where they will locate. (See the Business Climate Strategy for more information on business climate issues.) But they deserve special attention, both because the Pittsburgh Region has special advantages to attract them – particularly the existing R&D strengths and a high quality of life – and because they bring unusually high quality jobs with them.
Innovative companies hire innovative people, who develop new ideas. Some of those ideas can be used by the company to improve their own products and services. But other ideas may not fit the company’s business model. Rather than putting these ideas on the shelf, they can be turned into new companies. That’s why it’s important to help innovative companies stay and grow in the region – they’ll not only provide jobs themselves, but add to the warehouse of ideas that create more companies and more jobs. How can the region help turn ideas into companies? That’s Part 2 of this strategy – supporting entrepreneurship…
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