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Florida Investing $400M+ for VC, Research Centers and Tech Transfer

May 07, 2007

This year, the Florida Legislature focused a great deal of attention on TBED issues, approving and continuing its support for several tech-related programs. Though Gov. Charlie Crist's proposed $20 million investment in stem cell research did not survive the legislative session, initiatives designed to encourage other cutting-edge research, improve access to capital and attract promising companies garnered more than $400 million in the state budget.


Enterprise Florida will manage the state's new Opportunity Fund, which will provide seed and early-stage venture capital to high-tech companies through investments in private venture capital firms. The fund will launch with an initial, one-time appropriation of $29.5 million and will specifically target its investments toward companies in the advanced manufacturing, IT, life sciences, aviation and aerospace, and defense industries. Recipients must be Florida-based companies and have received twice as much as the state investment from other sources.


A new nonprofit Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research will coordinate the marketing and commercialization of intellectual property developed at the state's public universities. The institute will receive $1 million for initial setup expenses and operations. University technology commercialization also will get a boost from the State University Research Commercialization Assistance Grants program, which will offer early-, mid-, and late-stage grants ranging from $50,000 to $250,000. The Florida Technology, Research, and Scholarship Board will administer the program with an initial $4 million investment by the state.


The legislature also approved a $62 million plan to lessen the state's dependence on fossil fuels and encourage renewable energy research. The plan calls for a $20 million cellulosic ethanol demonstration plant, to be managed by the University of Florida. It also directs the Florida Energy Commission to begin work on designing a state renewable energy standard and a net-metering policy. A new task force on energy policy will determine further steps to nurture the emerging renewable energy industry and encourage the use of renewable energy technologies.


The Florida Innovation Incentive Fund will receive its second $250 million allocation. Since its creation last year, the state has used the fund to improve its R&D resources by investing in university and private research centers. This year's budget stipulates that $80 million of the allocation will fund the construction of a genomic research institute at the University of Miami. Projects that involve private businesses must create at least 1,000 jobs in the state and invest $500 million or more in new capital. These projects often involve partnerships with public universities. The investments complement the state's Centers of Excellence program, which focuses exclusively on university research centers. The Centers of Excellence program will receive $100 million under the new budget.