Pillar 5: Nurture Emerging Industries And Encourage Innovation

Technology and innovation are opportunities that can lead to expansion of new and existing industries.

Technology and innovation are drivers of new job growth. Northwest and Southwest Montana have seen robust growth in technology and high-tech manufacturing. In the east, the economy has benefited from new techniques to drill oil; in agricultural areas, farmers have had great success using precision agriculture. We need to be nimble and responsive to keep up with a rapidly changing global economy and ever-improving technologies by nurturing emerging industries and encouraging innovation.

The surveys, roundtables and meetings with business leaders throughout the state identified diversifying the economic base as one of the Montana Main Street Project’s top goals. Technology and innovation are opportunities that can lead to expansion of new and existing industries. To help diversify Montana’s economic base, we can identify and support opportunities to develop potentially high growth industries such as knowledge-based services, which export ideas and services.

Education is vitally important to emerging industries and to encourage innovation. Partnerships between our universities and business communities that move ideas to market already exist. These successful partnerships can serve as models for other Montana communities. Two-year colleges can and must quickly respond to changing skill sets required by new programs, software or machinery. Maximizing the responsiveness of two-year colleges will help the workforce adjust in a dynamic economy.

The natural challenges associated with having large-distances between businesses have prevented the spread of best practices within industries, and limited the development of in-state supply chains across industries. Many business and community leaders who attended the roundtable events asked for more networking opportunities across the state and across different sectors of the economy. For example, participants suggested that university researchers and innovators need to communicate with businesses to understand production processes so that new commercial technologies to improve efficiency can be developed. In turn, these innovators need start-up capital and customers so that productivity-enhancing technologies can rapidly spread through Montana’s economy.

Innovation is important to all industries, including emerging as well as traditional Montana industries. We must continue to promote technology and innovation in our traditional industries, such as precision agriculture in wheat farms, clean resources extraction methods, and technologies that improve worker productivity.

GOAL: Strengthen role of universities as technology incubators through research, development, and commercialization

Objective: Strengthen research partnerships between post-secondary institutions and the private sector to find private funding streams to stimulate innovation and growth

Objective: Support efforts of the Montana Technology Innovation Partnership

GOAL: Foster innovation and encourage knowledge-based industries to locate and grow in Montana

Objective: Stimulate investment in innovation and start-up companies

Objective: Support workforce needs and opportunities of high tech industry and knowledge-based economy

GOAL: Support entrepreneurs and small businesses to enhance their potential to achieve growth and sustainability

Objective: Help prospective entrepreneurs get started

Objective: Encourage successful entrepreneurs and serial entrepreneurs to be visible role models and give back to new businesses.

Project Highlights

  • Governor Bullock led successful efforts to secure $15 million in additional funds for research that is creating new commercial products and patented technologies.
  • The Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) launched its ”Choose Montana Campaign” and “Come Home Campaign” to encourage businesses to locate in Montana and former residents to return. GOED launched a renovated innovatemontana.com website, featuring entrepreneurial resources and successful Montana entrepreneurs.
  • With mining industry support Montana Tech has developed the Underground Mine Education Facility on campus–one of the few underground facilities for mine education and research located on a college campus. CAMP has attracted $2 million in new federal money and is supporting a broader range of industrial needs.
  • MSU’s Jake Jabs Center for Business and Entrepreneurship and the Blackstone LaunchPad (BLP) are developing entrepreneurial skills in students with the goal of enabling students to create future job opportunities in Montana.
  • Successful work on the KIN recommendations is already underway. The Health & Wellness KIN recommendation to expand access to healthcare was successful – providing access to health insurance for 70,000 additional
  • Ten KINs have had over 80 full group and subgroup meetings and have provided recommendations to Governor Bullock.