New Hampshire is the perfect incubator for new industries. Just ask Dean Kamen.
New England College students and other intrigued locals packed the Simon Center this fall to hear Dean Kamen share his launch story – which is also the beginning of his love for our state- and his perspective on New Hampshire’s opportunity for an innovative future.
Responding to a specific medical need for drug delivery over a period of time, Kamen had an early success with his portable infusion pump, which he was originally producing in his family’s basement in New York with the labor of younger siblings. Moving to an industrial park was meant to help his production take off, but he swiftly encountered bureaucratic obstacles and a local government unsympathetic to helping him work through them. Frustrated, he made a run up to Boston where his pediatric oncologist brother was putting the pumps to good use. Looking around the hospital parking lot, the inventor noticed something: a disproportionate number of green-and-white license plates with a compelling message about freedom. “How far away is New Hampshire?” he asked his brother. Their road trip culminated in Kamen’s purchase of one of the old mill buildings in Manchester, and his corporate move to a friendlier business climate.
In case any Granite Staters there had never thought about it, Kamen pointed out just how unique and well positioned we are. A corridor of tech and education runs down from the Upper Valley to Boston. The resources are there for all of your business needs, yet the state is small enough that it is easy to find and reach out to the people who can help you. “It’s a real state… we get two senators like everyone else!” he quipped, and added that elsewhere in America it is more rare to have presidential candidates knock on your door. Also, not every state has both an ocean and mountains to help lure workers.
While Kamen is also aware of the romance of working out of a mill complex that once produced “800 MILES of fabric per day”, for him the Manchester riverbank is also a cautionary tale of what happens to inventions once they are commodified and your product can be made more cheaply elsewhere. He views New Hampshire as the ideal incubator to produce completely NEW industries, such as the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute, which has the goal of mass producing human tissue.
While he had the ear of so many students, Kamen reminded his audience of the uncomfortable fact that they were receiving something most of the world has no access to. “Your education gives you a burden and a responsibility.” was his ending message. While we can’t all engineer robotic arms or advanced water filtration for the third world, it was a inspiration for students to put their knowledge, capabilities, and their location in the strong and agile state of New Hampshire, to good use.
NEC hosts talks throughout the year; the President’s Series is described here.