Engineering event forges ties

Showcase at WSUV draws in companies, teachers, students

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian business editor

Published:

 

On a gorgeous afternoon with snow-capped mountains on full display, Washington State University Vancouver's engineering faculty and students played host to leaders of some of Clark County's most innovative engineering and technical firms, launching a new series of events aimed at building connections between businesses and community resources.

Thursday's Engineering Innovation Showcase attracted some 50 business executives, engineers, and other employees, as well as more than 100 students and faculty members. The students and faculty presented some of their cutting-edge research projects in the lobby and lecture hall of the university's new Engineering and Computer Science Building. After a social give-and-take over food and drinks between the business hosts and their guests, several business leaders and company founders offered nuts-and-bolts presentations of their companies' products, challenges, and growth opportunities.

The three-hour, invitation-only event was co-hosted by the Columbia River Economic Development Council and WSUV to connect top engineering-related businesses with each other and with the university's engineering program. Similar sessions are in the planning stages for digital technology

businesses, in partnership with the city of Vancouver; and automation businesses, which will be co-hosted by the Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council and Clark College. Dates and details still have to be worked out, said Bonnie Moore, CREDC's vice president of business growth and innovation.

The networking and information-sharing events flow from CREDC's strategic plan, which lays out a strategy for supporting growth in innovation-driven businesses, Moore said. An important goal of the Thursday event was to connect leaders of Clark County's technology-driven companies with each other, creating opportunities for them to do business with each other, she said.

At the session, Lisa Nisenfeld, CREDC's president, likened the event to a form of dating between the university and businesses, "so that as our community grows and its economy grows, we embrace each other."

Anson Fatland, WSU's Seattle-based vice president of economic development, told the audience that the university is changing its commercialization program to make it easier to place products and technologies developed with WSU staff and resources into commercial use. "It does no good to get a patent and then put (a product) on the shelf," he said. Putting innovation to work "will benefit the region and the country," he said.

Business speakers included Scott Keeney, president and CEO of nLight Corp.; Chuck Gooding, general manager of Sekidenko, a division of Advanced Energy; and Bill Huseby, president of Sigma Design.