A better surgical adhesive was long overdue. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, was not. So, a decade after its establishment, Cohera Medical, a promising firm founded on an invention by University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) chemical engineer Eric Beckman, relocated to Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, which its founders thought a more advantageous location for biomedical innovation.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a massive new financing initiative this month focused at curbing this sort of outflow. Its purpose is to assist areas outside of the country’s most well-known high-tech hubs in developing the capacity to transform local scientists’ research into new businesses and well-paying employment that will boost the regional economy.
The Regional Innovation Engines, or NSF Engines, program will deliver the largest financial prizes in the foundation’s history—$160 million over ten years—to each of five areas aiming to establish their own Silicon Valleys. According to experts in the industry, whether organizations like Cohera can find all they need to succeed without having to leave their birthplaces will be a major metric of success.
“We spin out a dozen companies a year,” says Evan Facher, vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship at Pitt, whose medical center is one of the top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “But they don’t stay. They go to Boston or San Francisco because we can’t nurture them.”