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A Conversation With … Scott Dalenberg

Chairman, Springfield Innovations Inc., and Executive Vice President, SRC Holdings

Posted online

What’s the mission behind Springfield Innovation Inc.?
Springfield Innovation was formed back in 2006. The mission is to retain and create jobs within the community by promoting scientific and technological-based research. It’s really taking those commercial applications through the transfer of technology and support the educational and research assistance that we have in the community through Missouri State University. This provides a guidance of the activities and programs through the Jordan Valley Innovation Center, efactory and the broader IDEA Commons.

Are there particular technologies or spaces that these programs focus on?
One of the spaces that we’ve done for three years, this will be our fourth year, is what we call the accelerator program. We take new businesses and … we give them a grant of $30,000, and then Springfield Innovation and Missouri State University would take an equity stake [up to 8 percent] in that company. You basically are taking them through a process to really develop their business, to understand, how do I build a business, what are the things that I need, how do I present my idea to investment people out in the community? Through JVIC, it’s partnering with technology companies, nano research and scientific research. A lot of it revolves around the Department of Defense, so within that you have microelectronics, you have medical devices, pharmaceuticals and composites.

How do you measure the success of those programs going through the accelerator?
Some of these (businesses) can take three-plus years to kind of get off the ground even when you have an early investment. From an investment standpoint, I would say that it’s maybe a little below expectations because when you look at the companies coming through, and the ones that really we think are going to be viable companies in the future, probably one in a thousand that are actually successful. Very low. The visibility that the efactory and JVIC is giving to companies in our area as far as opportunities … it’s fabulous. Now it’s that opportunity to kind of take a step back and say, does the program need some redirection at this point in order to create a greater outcome?

What’s the latest on the IDEA Commons timeline?
The project is about 90 percent funded at this point. We’re looking in excess of $45 million project for downtown. (MSU) is very confident that The Vecino Group leading this is going to be successful in kind of bridging this last portion of the monies needed for the total project. I think they’re actually looking at starting the project early as the fourth quarter this year.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are areas of growth in technology. What do you see on the horizon within Springfield Innovation, and SRC Holdings Corp.?
You have a company (at efactory), the founder is Charlie Rosenbury, called (Tacit) and it does a lot with innovation and artificial intelligence, as far as being able to provide training. We have one of our companies in our logistics where they sort millions and millions of parts on an annual basis, so what they’re looking at right now is technology, basically the AI, where instead of having a human have to touch it and look at a part, that now they can come through a scanning module and through artificial intelligence, this thing can be rotated, it can be viewed. You can have much greater efficiency by automating that process. We’re an employee-owned company, so the ideas that foster up from the bottom are pretty phenomenal.

Last year SRC hired 620 employees. How is technology affecting your workforce?
There was a great article that came out the other day [by venture capitalist Kai-Fu in China]. They feel AI can replace 40 percent of the workforce [in the next 10-20 years]. That’s a staggering number. Automation and differentiation are going to be a mode of how we continue to innovate in the future, but we firmly believe that the companies that can differentiate and get the workforce are going to win.

Scott Dalenberg can be reached at sdalenberg@srcholdings.com.

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