here for PDF format
Click here for
participants' responses to this interview.
Jeremy Lenz, chief
operations officer, BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota,
Lynne Osterman, executive director, MN Nano
8301 Creekside Circle #920, Bloomington, MN 55437
of the discussion
Verne Johnson (chair), Dan Loritz, Tim McDonald, Jim Olson (phone), Wayne
Welcome and introductions
Jeremy Lenz is Chief Operations Officer of BioBusiness Alliance of
Minnesota, which he helped to start in 2004. He is the vice chair of the
board of University Enterprise Laboratories, a Minnesota bioscience
incubator, and a judge for the Minnesota Cup, Minnesota's largest business
Lenz received the American Marshall Memorial Fellowship from the German
Marshall Fund and in 2008, he received the Minneapolis/ St. Paul Business
Journal's '40 under 40' award. He received his MBA from the Carlson
School of Management in 2009.
is Executive Director of MN Nano,
served as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives (R-New Hope)
from 2002 to 2004. Her legislative focus was workforce development and job
creation, with much of her time spent on issues related to development of
the bioscience community in
She has subsequently worked as a lobbyist and served on the boards of
several organizations including the Northwest YMCA, BioBusiness Alliance
of Minnesota and the state's Job Skills Partnership board. She has her own
legislative advocacy firm, Minnesota Governmental Pursuits, and serves as
the Executive Director for MN Nano.
- The speakers opened their remarks with what is common to the efforts of
their organizations. Both aim to retain and expand employment and
commercialization across the science- and technology-focused sectors of
said that the goal of the BioBusiness Alliance is to focus specifically on
the bio-business sector of
economy. They seek to do this by paying attention to the different areas
of what he and Osterman call the "life science community" of the state.
both the retention and recruitment of companies are going well, the
speakers said, it creates a "honey effect," attracting more people
involved in the industry. But when retention and recruitment are going
badly, as in Detroit, communities need to pay a premium to attract
The life science community in Minnesota is diverse.
the complex grouping of life science industries easier to understand, and
to target support, Lenz said the Bio Business Alliance, with help from
colleagues at MN Nano and elsewhere, have developed the following outline
of the life science community in the state:
There are six basic industries in
life science community, Lenz explained. These are medical devices,
biologics/biopharmaceuticals, animal health, food, renewable energy, and
renewable materials. Minnesota is unusual in that all these industries
operate in close proximity.
The state also has community infrastructure, including leadership talent,
skilled workforce, funding, academic capability, acceleration/incubation,
international business support, and component/service suppliers.
Enabling Knowledge Clusters:
Lenz said that it is important to seek the areas where
Minnesota already is a global leader and can build from an existing
foundation. These areas, which he terms "enabling knowledge clusters,"
include bio and chemical, nanotech and materials, bioengineering and
clinical capabilities, bioinformatics and systems biology, genomics, and
For the science- and technology-focused sectors to work effectively, the
speakers said, the basic elements of education, infrastructure, and policy
must be in place. This is where public officials can best direct their
A resource is now available to locate bio-industry resources.
to help people understand the bio industry in Minnesota, the BioBusiness
Alliance built a database and an associated interactive map that enables
an interested person to perform searches by industry and resources. It may
be found on the
personally wanted to be able to go to a city council and tell them who is
in their area," Lenz said. There are many components to a life-science
economic cluster, and it is often not clear which of these components is
available in a particular region (labs, for example, or packagers) or
where else they might be.
needs a business plan as a state.
question facing state leaders has to be whether Minnesota has a business
plan," the speakers said. Lenz described listening to the CEO of 3M
criticizing the state on its tax climate. That's important, he said, but
only one of the factors affecting growth. The state spends a lot of money
each year and "If you put yourself in the position of CEO of the state,
and have the authority to allocate resources, what do you do?"
the state does not have a vision to guide that allocation, the speakers
said, nor has it had one for some time. In response to a question about
the current absence of a state planning agency, they agreed that it would
be very valuable to reestablish such a state function.
said that when she and fellow freshman legislators went to their
orientation they were given Department of Revenue presentations based
solely on what was done the year before. She had asked, "So when do we
talk about the future, or about planning?" She felt there was little sense
of planning or thinking about the future.
Absent public sector leadership, the private sector is moving ahead.
speakers agreed that there is a need for state leadership. If you were to
gather public and private leaders, they said, and ask them what the vision
of the state is, there would be no response.
learned not to ask if we have a plan," Osterman commented, "because the
answer is no. I now just start from that assumption."
private sector effort of BioBusiness Alliance and MN Nano, the speakers
said, is an attempt to transition from a situation with cities trying to
sell their strengths individually to one with the state having a single,
described a conference where a Minnesota town was giving a pitch about
their business climate. "Yet the people at the conference were looking for
specific animal health assets, not what a particular town is pitching as
its individual business climate."
grew out of the need for leadership.
described a council that then-Governor Pawlenty had appointed to work on
economic development. She saw that it was likely that the people involved
would "not be empowered to make any real inroads in regard to creating a
true "plan" for bioscience advancement in the state." She worked with Lenz
and then-Mayor Randy Kelly in St. Paul to urge then-Governor Pawlenty to
support the creation of what eventually became the BioBusiness Alliance of
Minnesota, utilizing a business plan that Lenz had co-authored for the
City of Saint Paul.
state competes for business, we need to address the basic question: Is the
region positioned to do what we need to do for the life sciences industry
to thrive, and how are we stacking up against other areas?
Nano technology is an area with strong potential for growth.
Nanotechnology leverages, or applies the findings of, nanoscience,
Osterman said, which is the science of extremely small materials. It
involves the study of material that goes beyond the molecular level to the
atomic level. For instance, the wings on Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner are
made from a composite material impossible to create only 20 years ago,
because we couldn't manipulate materials at that scale.
has many companies leveraging nanotechnology that could benefit from
greater interconnectedness and exposure, she said. MN Nano is seeking to
establish a new resource by February of 2012 that will feature all
companies utilizing nanotechnology. The companies are spread across all of
the state's vertical sectors, i.e. the various business sectors addressing
very particular or niche markets. This new tool, "NanoVox," is intended to
create opportunities for technologists within those verticals, to learn
about each other and to offer ways for them to collaborate with each other
as well as with other private-sector and academic researchers across the
entire five-state region (Wisconsin,
Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas).
Post-secondary institutions are responding to needs and opportunities.
are a lot of very creative administrators among the technical schools and
colleges, the speakers said.
State has created a world-renowned regulatory affairs program. MNSCU has
established specialty training programs tailored to the industries. There
is hope that these institutions will work with the Alliance to respond
further to the high-value job opportunities this industry brings to the
a private sector 'dashboard' of indicators that outlasts changes of
closing the speakers said that they are excited that Governor Dayton might
be adopting an economic "dashboard," i.e., an executive information system
that is designed (as an automobile's dashboard) to be easy to read. Such a
"dashboard" would be used to monitor the state's economy and component
industries.To gauge exactly how well the state is performing overall, a
digital dashboard would capture and report specific data points from
various industries in the state, thus providing a "snapshot" of
dashboard can help decision-makers know where the state stands at a
particular moment, Lenz said. Viewing the economic components at that
macro-level, if some indicators are off you can focus on those to examine
what's going on that might be turned around.
private sector leadership is critical because it is more of a constant
than government oversight with all its political swings, Osterman added.
The dashboard model, though, could provide a consistent means of assessing
the state's performance.
Thank you to our speakers for a good session.