University of Utah President Chase Peterson called the state "an island of excellence" and "an island of uniqueness" during a speech Friday to the 12th Annual Utah Conference on Energy, Mining and New Technology.

Peterson spoke at a luncheon session of the day-long conference, describing the advantages the state has to offer businesses looking to turn university research into profit-making enterprises.He compared Utah with the island nations of England and Japan, countries that overcame isolation from world markets by focusing on their highly educated work force.

As an example of what makes the state unique, Peterson cited the fact that there are more Japanese-speaking white engineering students along the Wasatch Front than in anywhere else in the world.

Such information can help the state turn what Peterson termed a surplus of creative ideas stemming from engineering and science research into economic development.

He said although venture capital to fund such proj-ects is thin in Utah, money will come to the state if there is the management and entrepreneurial skill to bring it here.

Those skills are what the state is deficient in, Peterson said. The U. is trying to encourage the development of those skills in faculty, through what he called, "academic capitalism."

Industrialist Jon M. Huntsman also spoke during the luncheon session on how his own belief in a product, the plastic sandwich containers used by fast-food chains, helped launch a multimillion dollar enterprise.

He said entrepreneurs need confidence and the boldness to believe in their product. "Whether they make it or not is not nearly as important as whether they tried or not," Huntsman said.

A Salt Lake resident whose business headquarters is also here, Huntsman said that, too often, Utahns are critical of their state. He said he has heard repeated praise around the world for the state's strong work ethic.