3 Things You (Probably) Don’t Know about Indiana Innovation


People who live outside of Indiana probably know a few things about it: The Indianapolis 500, a.k.a. “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” is run every Memorial Day weekend; Indiana limestone was used to build the Empire State Building, the National Cathedral, and the Pentagon; and Indiana sugar cream pie is the best dessert ever.

But people might not know much about Indiana’s economy and its culture of innovation. Their first thoughts likely turn to agriculture and manufacturing. We’re very proud of those industries. In fact, they led the way for the state’s GDP growth of 3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015, which was the highest in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.

But there is more to Indiana’s economy and innovation than ag and manufacturing. Here are three things you probably didn’t know about the Hoosier State:

1. Indiana’s life sciences sector touches the lives of people around the world.

The Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University shared data that shows the state is the nation’s second-largest exporter of life sciences products, with $9.9 billion in exports during the 12 months ended Sept. 30, 2015. That accounted for almost a third of the state’s exports over that time period.

The impact on in-state residents is huge, too: More than 56,500 people work at nearly 1,700 companies throughout Indiana in the sectors of medical care, drugs and pharmaceuticals, medical devices and equipment, research and testing laboratories, and the like. Indiana is home to the global headquarters for Anthem, Cook Medical, Dow AgroSciences, and Eli Lilly and Company, as well as the North American headquarters for Roche Diagnostics.

To continue to strengthen its life sciences reputation, the state launched BioCrossroads, a public-private collaboration to support research and corporate strengths while encouraging new business growth.

2. Warsaw, IN, is the “Orthopedic Capital of the World.”

When doctors implant devices to replace a patient’s missing bones or support damaged bones, those devices were probably designed, developed, and/or manufactured in Warsaw. According to OrthoWorx, a community-industry partnership in the global orthopedic sector, the cluster of orthopedic businesses in Warsaw has more than $11 billion in annual sales, which is almost one-third of the industry’s world sales volume. Warsaw is home to the global headquarters of DePuy Synthes Joint Reconstruction and Zimmer Biomet, among others.

OrthoWorx has established several initiatives on education and workforce development, innovation and entrepreneurship, branding and awareness, and community enhancement to strengthen the area’s abilities to grow the orthopedic sector as well as promote its stature in the global market.

3. Indiana’s institutes of higher education have become centers of entrepreneurship, supporting their faculty, staff, and students.

Several world-class research institutions are located in the state, including Indiana University, Purdue University, and the University of Notre Dame. Experts in the STEM fields, medicine, agriculture, and others have conducted research that has influenced the academic world for decades.

These institutes of higher learning are encouraging innovators to develop work to impact the everyday lives of people around the world. In fact, Indiana University’s Bicentennial Strategic Plan calls for a $300 million investment program called Grand Challenges that focuses on large-scale problems facing humanity. One of the program’s goals is to improve the quality of life of the people of Indiana and the world in tangible ways, which could also improve economic vitality in the state. The program’s first initiative will focus on precision health.

It makes sense for Indiana institutions to encourage innovation that helps the world, since then-Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana worked with then-Senator Bob Dole of Kansas to create the bipartisan Patent and Trademark Law Amendments Act, or Bayh-Dole Act, in 1980. The legislation allows United States universities, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations to retain intellectual property rights of inventions developed from federal government-funded research. That law helped kick-start the modern tech transfer field.

By retaining their intellectual property, institutions can seek to patent it through nonprofit organizations like the Indiana University Research and Technology Corporation, the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization, Notre Dame’s Office of Technology Transfer, and others.

Both patented and non-patented intellectual property from universities and colleges in Indiana have been turned into successful products and processes by licensing IP to already-established companies or to entrepreneurs looking to launch a startup. Some of these entrepreneurs are faculty and staff members who license their own work. Encouraging and supporting these entrepreneurs has led to the creation of programs like SpinUp at Indiana University and the Purdue Foundry, as well as business incubation centers including Purdue Research Park and Innovation Park at Notre Dame.

The results? Well over 100 new startups operating in sectors like agricultural services, drug discovery and development, alternative fuels, communications, engineering, logistics, life sciences, and many others. Notable university spinouts include Angel Learning, Endocyte, and Marcadia Biotech.

Other things you might not know about Indiana’s economy and culture of innovation include its large network of co-working spaces (Launch Fishers, The Anvil, The Branch, and others), and efforts to support diverse businesses, like through the Indiana Department of Administration’s Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises Division.

But keep these three facts in mind the next time you travel to the state. We’ll have a slice of sugar cream pie waiting for you.

Tony Armstrong is the president and CEO of the Indiana University Research & Technology Corporation, a nonprofit agency that helps university faculty, staff, and students protect and commercialize their intellectual property. He is also the assistant vice president in the university's Office of the Vice President for Engagement. Follow @

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