23 Jun On Location at BIO 2003
WASHINGTON – Welcome to the global village called BIO ’03. Let’s take a walking tour through the future of biotechnology.
Starting at the Wisconsin Pavilion in the cavernous exhibit hall at the Washington, D.C., Convention Center, you’ll find a 100 the anniversary Harley-Davidson motorcycle parked in the corner. OK, that has next to nothing to do with biotechnology, but it’s a great way to lure people into our aisle.
Gov. Jim Doyle dropped by today to deliver what he characterized as a Knute Rockne pep talk to the 75-member Wisconsin delegation, then he walked the aisle of exhibitors that included companies such as EraGen and institutions such as UW-Madison and the Marshfield Clinic. Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, the current secretary of Health and Human Services, took the Wisconsin walking tour, too. Not at the same time as Doyle, of course. It’s a long story that we’ll tell some other time.
Thompson introduced President Bush a crowd of about 10,000 techies from around the world, and the president responded by saying, “I knew Tommy was here when I saw his Harley parked out front. So I put my Segway right next to it.”
Everyone here has a slogan. I’m proud to say the unofficial Wisconsin pavilion slogan is my very own – “The I-Q Corridor,” which describes the quality ideas, investment potential, intellectual capital and innovation bound by the interstate system between Chicago and the Twin Cities.
But if you walk a few feet to New York, you’re told “The Cure Starts Here.” So much for everyone who ever thought the diseases started there.
Iowa is “The Smart Idea.” Manitoba is “Where Ideas Come to Play.” Presumably, those Manitoba ideas are smart ideas that want to vacation outside Iowa.
I now know that Singapore is the “Biopolis of Asia.” And that “Bio’s Hot in Omaha.” And that “Virginia is for Business.” Better yet, I know that the Germans can always be counted on to bring beer.
The sheer size of the exhibit hall is an overwhelming reminder of how much competition Wisconsin faces in its bid to become a leading biotechnology state. The pavilions from France, Great Britain, Germany and Japan are so large that they’re broken down by provinces, cities and prefectures. Pennsylvania’s exhibit is larger than most national exhibits.
You can tiptoe through the tulips of Holland. You can visit Tennessee, Korea, Norway, Ohio, Austria, Kentucky (they’re giving away biotech Louisville Slugger bats) and New Zealand – all without leaving the convention floor.
It’s fun, but it’s also cutthroat competition. Not every state or nation that claims to be the center of the Biotech Universe will prosper in the years to come. But those which have a toe or even an entire foot in the water now have a chance to win. The exhibits from other states may be bigger and flashier, but the science from Wisconsin is world-class. And you can ride that Harley to the bank.
Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council and the Wisconsin Innovation Network. He is attending the Biotechnology Industy Organization convention in Washington, D.C.