Oregon RAIN receives legislative approval, funding

Partners in the Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network (RAIN) began painting a more detailed picture of what the initiative could look like, following the news that the Oregon legislature had funded the program for the South Willamette Valley in the amount of $3.75 million. A partnership among the UO, Oregon State University, Eugene, Corvallis, Springfield, Albany, the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce and other regional entities, the program will include facilities adjacent to the state’s two large research universities designed to encourage innovation-based companies and research-inspired startups.

Kimberly Andrews Espy, the UO’s vice president for research and innovation and dean of the graduate school, said Oregon RAIN will create a “seamless ecosystem for innovation” – both at the campus level and the community level.

“By giving emerging companies access to the facilities, equipment and knowledge that they need to be successful, Oregon RAIN will allow us to leverage our best assets – the ideas from our creative community and the research from our talented faculty,” Espy said. “Small, innovative technology companies tend to grow quickly and create stable, high-wage jobs that attract and keep talent in our region, which makes Oregon RAIN a very smart investment in our future.”

At the state level, Gov. John Kitzhaber and the Lane County Legislative Delegation have been active supporters of Oregon RAIN. Sen. Lee Beyer sponsored legislation to create the RAIN program, and along with Sen. Chris Edwards, testified in support of the initiative before the legislature Ways and Means Subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development. Following the end of the legislative session on July 8, Beyer issued a news release announcing the passage of Senate Bill 241, which funded the program. The accelerator grew out of the Governor’s South Valley Regional Solutions Center as a means of fostering job creation by advancing the creation, support, growth and retention of technology-based startups.

The next step will be for Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy to co-chair with Corvallis Mayor Julie Manning the committee that will develop the business plan for Oregon RAIN so that centers in both cities will be up and running as soon as possible. The groundwork for the accelerator is already well underway, said Chuck Williams, the UO’s associate vice president for innovation.

“We’ve reached an inflection point where there’s real excitement about what this next level could mean to us and we’re ready to get started,” Williams said. “Oregon RAIN provides a great opportunity for us to see the fruits of our research endeavors, not only within the university community, but within our very creative communities of Eugene, Springfield, Corvallis and Albany.”

- by UO Office of Research, Innovation and Graduate Education