Feb. 22, 2006--Massachusetts has decided to play matchmaker -- in the business world, at least.

Under a new initiative, the Bay State will help pair large corporations seeking innovation and cutting-edge skills with small businesses and research universities that specialize in those needs. The program, called Massachusetts Business Connect, was announced Tuesday by Gov. Mitt Romney.

"Massachusetts Business Connect provides opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses to engage with others that can help their businesses grow," said Joseph Donovan, director of communication for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Economic Development.

Donovan said that when Procter & Gamble bought Boston-based Gillette last year, rather than seeing it as a loss, the state saw an opportunity to introduce a major corporation -- one that spends $2 billion annually on external research -- to what Massachusetts had to offer.

In what was a pilot to the program last August and September, state officials arranged meetings between senior P&G executives and more than 50 representatives of small businesses, entrepreneurial firms, and universities specifically able to meet P&G’s research and design needs.

Donovan said P&G has acknowledged that 10 non-disclosure agreements have come out of the introductions. Because those sorts of privacy concerns will continue, officials recognize that it will be difficult to gauge the program’s success with job creation. Donovan said that the state will measure relationships, and he is confident that new and stronger connections will ultimately create jobs.

"The emphasis on job creation is where it should be," said Ross De Vol, director of regional economics at the Milken Institute, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based economic think tank. He added that "trying to improve collaboration with all stakeholders" makes sense.

Cort Boulanger, of the Massachusetts High Technology Council, said that "atmosphere for collaboration" has been lacking in the state. Because of the universities, investment resources, and a highly skilled, educated workforce, Boulanger said, "Massachusetts has been economically successful despite itself."

A major focus of the initiative will be building relationships. The homework Massachusetts Business Connect does to make the introductions valuable to both sides may turn it into a "pioneer for the way job creation is done in the 21st century," Donovan said.

Defense contractors Lockheed Martin Sippican, Textron, and Dynamics Research have signed up to participate in the program’s next set of connections.

Boulanger said that the 85,000 defense-related workers in the state stand to benefit greatly because many firms are too small to pitch directly to the Defense Department or the Department of Homeland Security. By partnering with larger firms they may be in position to develop new technologies.