Nomination of William Hoffman for the 2001 Twin Cities International Citizen Award

I am honored to nominate William Hoffman for the Twin Cities International Citizen Award. Bill is the powerhouse that single handedly gave virtual reality to our region's core values of saving lives and improving public health. He defined and gave virtual life to our region's renowned biomedical and bioscience community; networked its army of innovators battling disease, disability, and starvation; and provided open access worldwide to what we do best -- develop life-saving medical techniques, life-sustaining devices, and primary health services. Bill's selfless actions exemplify our community's most closely held value that every life matters.

Bill's baby, MBBNet, is the largest regional university-industry collaborative network in the world. This Internet portal connects more than 950 regional health-oriented organizations and provides medical and scientific information to more than 16,000 people around the globe each month. And, after painstakingly interconnecting our region's premier cluster of innovation, Bill has started to interconnect the regional communities of biomedical and bioscience innovation worldwide.

Bill's efforts keep the Twin Cities at the hub of the worldwide medical innovation network and on the cutting edge of life-saving technology and care giving. By networking our community of health innovators and integrating them into the global community, Bill has subtly enhanced global cooperation, regional competitiveness, and the high-wage job base in the Twin Cities. He has enabled over $700 million of new investment in our region and promoted access to overseas markets and investment. Few in our community have accomplished so much with so little.

But, Bill is not a doctor or white frocked scientist. Nor is he a programmer or a net-head hardware geek. He is not paid to grow our regional economy. Bill is a writer and intrapreneur extraordinaire.

Creating a web portal to connect research institutes, non-profits, and companies is a far cry from the job description of the Director of Communications and Community Affairs for the University of Minnesota Institute of Medical Biotechnology. But Bill was quick to understand that the Internet would concentrate medical innovation in networked communities. He also understood that the Internet was the new media for disseminating the life-sustaining values that guide and inspire that innovation.

The influence of MBBNet has been electric. Last year, Zurich MedNet, Switzerland's regional Medical/Biotech Network, developed its web portal specifically to forge a strategic alliance with MBBNet and create a mutually searchable Internet gateway to medical technology, resources, and know-how, according to Swiss News. During the inauguration of the partnership at the Swiss Embassy in Washington, Nobel laureate Richard Ernst of Zurich hailed the link up and noted, "The 21st Century will be a century of great challenges in science and technology. Above all it will be a century of ideas and also of responsibility. The Zurich MedNet-MBBNet link, forged in a spirit of cooperation, will permit us to share our ideas for innovation and community-building over a great distance." Indeed, an ongoing student exchange between the University of Minnesota and the University of Applied Sciences in Winterthur has become a new facet of the relationship.

Interest from around the globe has placed demands on Bill's time. Bill has been invited to the Isle of Man to explore medical cooperation and connections, and discussions are underway to connect MBBNet to the Asia-Pacific med-tech innovation communities. Other regions, nationally and internationally, are looking to and linking to MBBNet as the model for regional integration of their innovation clusters. Let's hope our region will learn how competing cities around the globe work together to benefit their region, and use this knowledge in ways that will strengthen our narrow, fragmented, and often wasteful community and economic development efforts.

Nearly a million MBBNet web pages are downloaded annually. This March, for example, Silicon Valley-based BioZak, "The Ultimate Place for Bioventures," downloaded 3,000 pages, a German e-commerce portal downloaded 250 pages, the University of Birmingham Medical School, United Kingdom downloaded 120 pages, the Singapore General Hospital-80 pages, a Romanian portal-81 pages, the National Governors Association-60 pages, the University of Barcelona Medical School-59 pages, the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology-55 pages, La Salle University, Mexico-55 pages, Hong Kong Sanitarium & Hospital-30 pages, and on and on, month after month. Bill's outreach and international successes demonstrate a strong commitment to international understanding and cooperation.

By connecting our regional medical researchers, labs, companies, and think tanks in a wired community of expertise and allowing open, worldwide access to that community of innovation, Bill has made clear and significant contributions to the local and global communities. But, Bill's commitment to the local community does not stop with MBBNet. Bill helped secure Howard Hughes Medical Institute funding for a collaborative partnership between the University and the Science Museum of Minnesota to launch Bioneers Camp, a two-week learning camp that introduces many underprivileged 10-to-13-year olds to biomedical research. He also initiated and coordinates BioMed Camp, which provides experiences at Fairview-University Medical Center's diagnostic radiology and catheterization clinics, and special talks by program directors on diabetes, laboratory safety, electricity and medicine among other topics. More than 400 Twin Cities children have benefited from these camps.

William Hoffman is an inspirational example of what one person can accomplish. He shows us how to use the Internet to strengthen our values and build our community. He demonstrates how to create prosperity by cooperating, not competing, with communities around the globe. He shares information about life-saving technologies and innovations freely. But, ultimately, Bill Hoffman's message is that, if he can do this, others can too. And that is the challenge he lays at our feet and the inspiration he plants in our hearts.

Douglas Petty
Chief Executive Officer
The Great North Alliance
"Civic Leadership for Regional Competitiveness"