- Associated Press - Thursday, April 3, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Fort Collins, Provo, Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill are household names in tech circles_cities known for birthing startup companies with well-paying jobs.

Each has key elements for entrepreneurship_existing high-tech business, venture capital, incubators.

Each city also boasts perhaps the greatest element of all: major research universities that churn out dozens, if not hundreds, of patents every year for the new enterprises to license.

West Lafayette and Bloomington are seldom mentioned in the same breath as the major tech havens, but that could begin to change if Purdue and Indiana universities stay on current trajectories.

Unbelievable as it would have sounded even a few years ago, Purdue and IU now both produce more startup companies annually than most of the schools at the heart of the famed entrepreneurial hubs in Colorado, Utah and North Carolina.

Purdue’s research, for instance, led to an average of almost eight new companies a year from 2000 to 2012, according to the Association of University Technology Managers.

The research universities surrounding Research Triangle Park in North Carolina_North Carolina, North Carolina State and Duke_produced an average of 4.5.

The trend in Indiana is still infantile. And despite the relatively high number of startups, few have yet to make a lot of money.

But after years of criticism from the business community, Purdue and IU finally are showing progress toward a culture of commercializing technology.

“In the past seven, eight, 10 years, have we made strides? Without a doubt,” said Steve Beck, an investor who has worked for decades on statewide efforts to get universities to patent research and foster startups.

“But you’ve got to walk before you run.”

Indiana got serious about university tech transfer in the 1990s.

Not only had the state lost swaths of manufacturing jobs during recessions, but few tech companies were rising to fill the gaps with well-paying white collar jobs.

To diversify the economy, leaders in both the public and private sectors ripped strategies from playbooks in other states and turned to universities for the ongoing stream of research.

That knowledge, until then largely sitting on shelves in scholarly journal articles and white papers, contained innovations that could be turned into products and services and breathe life into new companies.

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