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Weekly Column: Recognizing Local Innovation

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

In 2017 alone, 1,432 patent applications were filed by residents of Idaho, and 752 patents were issued to Idahoans, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  USPTO reports that nearly the same amount of patents (744) were issued to Idaho residents in 2018.  Considering the innovative products and services already coming out of Idaho, it is no surprise that Idahoans continue to be brimming with ideas to make lives easier and better our communities and world. 

In recent months, I have had the opportunity to help recognize a couple of local innovators.  In November, I met with Nate Roskam, with Because International, which was one of nine winners of the USPTO’s “Patents for Humanity” award, meant to honor innovators who used technology to meet global humanitarian challenges.  The USPTO honored Because International for distributing 180,000 pairs of resizable shoes in over 95 countries.  The company has been recognized for developing an expandable shoe to prolong the fit of shoes for children around the world to protect them from soil-transmitted illnesses.  

I also had the opportunity to help honor Edmund O. Schweitzer, III, Ph.D., who is being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.  My colleagues in the Idaho Congressional Delegation, Senator James E. Risch, Representative Mike Simpson and Representative Russ Fulcher, and I submitted a Congressional Record Statement to congratulate Dr. Schweitzer for receiving this award. 

The National Inventors Hall of Fame selected Dr. Schweitzer for this honor in recognition of him bringing “the first microprocessor-based digital protective relay to market, revolutionizing the performance of electric power systems with computer-based protection and control equipment, and making a major impact in the electric power utility industry.”  In 1982, he founded Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc., SEL, which has a manufacturing facility in Lewiston, Idaho, to develop and manufacture digital protective relays and related products and services.  In January, Dr. Schweitzer received his 200th patent pertaining to electric power system protection, metering, monitoring and control. 

These are examples of the many in our communities who are turning great ideas into practical tools that meet the demands of our ever-changing and modernizing society.  Idahoans are fueling growth and feeding the world by creating innovative agricultural products and energy developments.  Idahoans are establishing cutting-edge services that ease the way we do daily tasks.  They are seeing a need in local communities and communities around the world and turning their ideas into solutions that keep people safe from harm and give children a chance to grow up and pursue their dreams. 

I am deeply proud of the know-how and ingenuity that is flourishing in Idaho, and I will continue to support federal policy that gives homegrown Idaho innovation every opportunity to take root, grow and succeed. 

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