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The latest reporting and analysis on breakthroughs in technology-based economic development research and issues that matter most to you. To receive the SSTI Weekly Digest via email, sign up here.


Tennessee reconnects with adult students, aims to boost workforce

May 17, 2017

Adults in Tennessee seeking to return to the classroom will have a new option for free tuition at community colleges, part of an expansion of the Tennessee Promise scholarship program. The newly passed and expanded Tennessee Reconnect legislation extends eligibility for free tuition to persons who have been out of school for longer periods of time or who may have never attended college. It is part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Drive to 55” focus, where he hopes to increase the percentage of the state’s adults equipped with a college degree or certificate to 55 percent; it is currently closer to 30 percent in Tennessee.

Congress sends mixed signals on evidence-based programming

May 17, 2017

In an unexpected twist, the FY 2017 budget passed earlier this month by Congress has more dislikes than likes for evidence-based program and policy design, despite being embraced strongly by both Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama. Masked under a variety of different nomenclatures – performance contracting, social impact bonds, pay for success, for example – evidence-based programming incorporates rigorous metrics to assess the effectiveness of public policy toward meeting its goals and basing expenditures accordingly.

Recent Research: Unicorns are routinely over-valued

May 17, 2017

In a market economy, what people are willing to pay determines something’s value. Airline tickets are a good example. For most of the major airlines, the price to purchase a seat the day of a flight seems to be some multiple of how much the airline thinks they can get away charging versus any drive to actually see the seat used. This supply-demand principle falls apart though with valuations set for startup companies funded by equity investors, such as angels or venture capitalists. In the risk capital business, a number of possible factors influences a startup company’s value – most tied to future markets, comparables, or dreams of big exits. Recent research from the University of British Columbia and Stanford University suggests just how surprisingly risky – and overly optimistic – this approach is.

Regional Innovation Strategies 2017 funding available

May 11, 2017

The Economic Development Administration is seeking applications through June 23 for the 2017 Regional Innovation Strategies program. Through SSTI’s work with Congress, a record $17 million is available this year. Along with increased funding, the notice of funding availability includes a few changes from previous years. More information will also be available in a webinar SSTI is hosting with EDA on May 22 at 3 p.m. EDT.

IA, ND, NY state budgets hit and miss on innovation funding

May 11, 2017

SSTI continues its reporting on actions taken by state legislatures to invest in economic growth through science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. This week, we look at the budgets passed and signed by governors in Iowa, New York and North Dakota, finding mostly level and some increased funding for innovation programs in Iowa and New York – including free tuition at in-state colleges for qualifying residents – while North Dakota is looking at decreased funding for programs.

Entrepreneurial ecosystems gain momentum, stimulate growth

May 11, 2017

The Kauffman Foundation released a new report analyzing entrepreneur development in St. Louis and Kansas City. Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Momentum and Maturity, The Important Role of Entrepreneur Development Organizations and Their Activities, by Ken Harrington, proposes a framework that names a four-step entrepreneur development process from problems and ideas to customer-funded venture that feeds into higher-stage venture development and, ultimately, economic development. Under this framework, Harrington explores how entrepreneurship is supported in each community by organizations such as KCSourceLink and BioSTL.

Useful Stats: GDP Per Capita by State, 2015-2016

May 11, 2017

Every state and the District of Columbia experienced real GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to the latest estimates released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The positive news means only energy-dependent Alaska, North Dakota and Wyoming saw real GDP fall over the year compared to the end of 2015. Experiencing growth of more than 5 percent between 2015 and 2016 were the District of Columbia, Nevada, Utah and Washington.

Workforce needs better training, support policies to meet demand

May 11, 2017

Could Jill Watson be the typical graduate assistant of the future? Watson was Georgia Tech’s first AI teaching assistant that fooled some in the computer science class into thinking the assistant they were dealing with in an online forum was human. New methods of teaching and training are being explored to handle the growing needs of filling middle-skilled jobs, according to several recently released reports. A new report from the Pew Research Center focuses on whether workers will be able to compete with artificial intelligence tools and whether capitalism itself will survive. Two other reports released last month by the National Skills Coalition stress workforce training through work-based learning policy and surveys all the states for the effectiveness of such programs, and provides policy recommendations by revisiting a November report. The new Pew report, The Future of Jobs and Jobs Training, begins by asserting that “massive numbers of jobs are at risk” as smart, autonomous systems continue to infiltrate the workplace. Solutions evolving from conversations surrounding the topic include changes in educational learning environments to help people stay employable in the future, the report says.

FCC seeks comments on changes to net neutrality, website crashes

May 11, 2017

On April 27, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would impact net neutrality in the U.S.. The Restoring Internet Freedom act, which will be voted on at the May 18 FCC meeting, would end the utility-style regulatory approach intended to preserve net neutrality. Pai’s office contends that the FCC 2015 decision to subject internet service providers (ISPs) to Title II utility style regulations reduces the incentive for innovation in the industry and threatens the open Internet it is purported to preserve.

Facing deindustrialization, smaller regions turn to innovation, workforce development

May 11, 2017

In a recent Digest article, SSTI covered research highlighting the oversized role that offshoring multinationals had in manufacturing employment decline from 1983 to 2011. During this time, deindustrialization and manufacturing unemployment had a profound impact on community approaches to economic development.

Budget deal supports innovation, research

May 04, 2017

Congress has passed a budget for FY 2017 that largely continues support for federal innovation programs and R&D investments. Among the highlights are $17 million for Regional Innovation Strategies (a $2 million increase over FY 2016), level funding of $130 million for the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership and $5 million for SBA’s clusters program. In reviewing dozens of line items, offices that had received significant cuts in the White House’s skinny budget appear to receive some of the largest funding increases (such as the Appalachian Regional Commission, Community Development Block Grant and ARPA-E). However, with the exception of multi-billion dollar increases for Department of Defense R&D, many increases are rather small in terms of overall dollars. This is, at least in part, a reflection of non-defense spending caps rising by only $40 million for FY 2017, limiting the availability of new funds. In this context, science and innovation gains are particularly impressive, with a five percent overall increase for federal R&D that particularly benefits NASA and NIH.

Budget commentary: Status quo is a good start

May 04, 2017

Both before and after the new administration released its budget plan, SSTI was communicating with both parties to identify how Congress would react to significant budget reductions. The message we heard was clear and consistent: Congress would continue to fund its existing priorities. The FY 2017 Omnibus shows that legislators were true to their word. Innovation policymakers and practitioners throughout the country should take a moment to appreciate this….

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