Innovation

Silicon Valley Investor Aims To Create Tech Hub In Maine

A new research institute in Portland, Maine, is intended to electrify the local economy and provide a hub for multiple career fields outside of the major cities that dominate most tech job searches.

The test project was introduced Monday (Jan. 27) by a host of officials including Gov. Janet Mills and Mayor Kate Snyder, who gathered on the riverfront and announced the project that they hope will be their savior from the flailing productivity growth and starved business formation numbers.

The city has 66,000 residents, and city officials have been worried about how things will develop in the future — things can’t survive only on lobstering and tourism, and former jobs in forestry and fishing have declined in recent years.

The city can’t hope to compete in every way with heavy-hitters like Boston, Seattle, San Francisco and Silicon Valley, which captured nine out of 10 jobs between 2005 and 2017.

So it will have to go its own way with the new institute to be called the Roux Institute after Silicon Valley investor David Roux, its patron. At the school, certificates, master’s degrees and Ph.D’s in artificial intelligence and machine learning will be a priority.

Portland could be a good setting for one, according to Roux in the New York Times, due to the proximity of a few already-established tech companies and a major technology-rich hub in Boston available not too far away. The Roux Institute will open in May and is expected to house as much as 2,600 students by 10 years from now.

The logic behind the institute is that innovators do their best work when they are surrounded by other innovators. And while producing an array of highly-educated workers might not save an economy on its own, it also won’t hurt.

Universities have traditionally been a boon for local economies, encouraging them through collaborations between their participants and those already in the community. Professors can generate patents, consult with local firms of various stripes and start their own firms. Companies can team up with university labs.

A study between 1950 and 2010 found that communities with universities had a trend of improvement, due to links between the universities’ presence and those communities’ innovation and education rates.

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