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Florida 5-Year Plan Advocates STEM, Clusters & Tech Commercialization

January 20, 2010

Enterprise Florida released its latest five-year strategic plan for the state, calling for increased investment in STEM education, university research, commercialization assistance and early-stage capital access programs. Florida must diversify its economy and strengthen its high-tech industries in order to reduce the state’s reliance on population-based growth, according to the report. Enterprise Florida also endorses a cluster-based strategy to promote high-tech industries based on their relative levels of development in the state.

The strategic plan identifies three categories of industries that are vital to the state’s economic diversification.

  • Florida’s foundational clusters, including advanced manufacturing, agriculture, construction, marine, space and tourism, are current areas of strength that can be leveraged to help the state expand into newer, more cutting-edge industries.
  • Expanding clusters, such as aviation/aerospace, clean energy, financial/professional services, homeland security/defense, infotech and life sciences, represent opportunities for the state to assert its national and global leadership. The report includes projects and areas of research that could help the state differentiate itself and thrive in these industry clusters.
  • Emerging clusters are clusters that do not yet have significant footholds in Florida, and will require the state to be prepared for their emergence by building strong collaborative networks and effective science and research policies. Nanotechnology, global logistics and creative industries are identified as potential state clusters. Enterprise Florida recommends that the state establish a science and technology policy advisory committee to help steer state funding for research and commercialization in the future.


The report includes six pillars of economic development that are important to building strong clusters in any category: talent, innovation, growth leadership/infrastructure, business climate, global connections and quality of life. Several of these pillars include recommendations related to TBED.

In 2006, the state made a one-time investment in the 21st Century World Class Scholars program, a fund that was used to attract 16 leading scientists to the state. Florida should recapitalize that fund, as well as expand the state’s university Centers of Excellence program and redouble efforts to secure federal research funding, according to the plan. To increase the volume and quality of corporate R&D, the report suggests that the state should enact a state R&D tax credit and expand the Florida Innovation Fund, which provides incentives to attract corporate R&D facilities and nonprofit research institutes.

In order to increase the flow of technologies to the market, the report calls for the continuation of the State University Research Commercialization Assistance Grant program, a permanent version of the state’s SBIR Phase 0 pilot program, and a new program to provide equity investments in small technology businesses. The report also recommends that existing capital programs, such as the Florida Opportunity Fund and the Florida Growth Fund be directed to focus more of their investments on early-stage companies.

Roadmap to Florida’s Future: 2010-2015 Strategic Plan for Economic Development is available at: http://www.eflorida.com/Floridas_Future.aspx?id=8186