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Alabama governor signs measures to boost state’s innovation economy with $9M in appropriations

May 27, 2021

Alabama is the latest state that is embracing innovation as a way to grow the state’s economy. On May 19, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation that grew from two top priority measures of the Alabama Innovation Commission — proposals discussed between SSTI and commission members in a meeting earlier this year. House Bill (HB) 540 establishes the Alabama Innovation Corporation, a public-private partnership that will serve as a catalyst for the state’s growing innovation economy, and HB 609 creates the Innovate Alabama Matching Grant Program that will promote research and development in the state. Both measures were passed unanimously in the state’s recently concluded legislative session. The initiatives are funded through the Education Trust Fund Budget (enacted May 11), with the Alabama Innovation Corporation receiving $4 million in funding, and the Alabama Matching Grant Program appropriated $5 million.

Last July, the governor announced by Executive Order 720 that she was establishing Alabama’s first statewide commission on entrepreneurship and innovation. The order created the 15-member Alabama Innovation Commission (also known as Innovate Alabama), chaired by state Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) and Senate Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper), as an advisory group that would meet regularly and serve as a platform for innovators to engage policymakers, exchange ideas, and identify policies that would promote innovation in the state. As part of this process, SSTI was invited by members and universities in the state to speak with commission members about the state of innovation activity in Alabama and policies to support further activity. The commission ultimately recommended proposals to create a statewide corporation and to fund innovation grants.

The newly established Alabama Innovation Corporation will act as a public-private partnership to promote specific initiatives in support of statewide entrepreneurship, rural businesses, research and development at existing companies, and access to advanced tech skills that will drive a modern workforce. The Innovate Alabama Matching Program will match federal awards to Alabama-based Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) recipients. The Alabama Innovation Corporation will oversee the grant program, which will receive annual appropriations.

According to the governor’s office, the commission and its subcommittees will continue to meet throughout the summer and early fall as it develops a comprehensive innovation policy agenda to be presented to the administration and Legislature in October.

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