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Georgia, Virginia Lawmakers Expand Investments in Research, Cybersecurity

April 24, 2013

As the 2013 legislative session draws to a close for several states, lawmakers approved measures to create new opportunities for economic growth or expand investments in programs demonstrating positive outcomes. Lawmakers in Georgia increased funding for established university-based research initiatives and set up a state-run venture capital fund to invest in innovative companies. In Virginia, a new cybersecurity accelerator will help propel technology and companies in an emerging sector.

During this year's legislative session, lawmakers boosted funding for university-based research initiatives, set up a venture capital fund to invest in startups, and passed a bill enabling more students to gain eligibility for scholarships at technical colleges.

Funding for the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), a nonprofit organization that receives state funding to build university research, development and commercialization capacity, is increased by $7.7 million over last year for a total $21.5 million. Of this amount, $12.5 million is appropriated in the capital budget as bond funding to purchase equipment and fund R&D infrastructure. In the coming year, GRA will continue its emphasis on recruiting pre-eminent scientists to the state's research universities through its Eminent Scholar program. GRA also will launch several enhancements to their existing research commercialization programs.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill to set up a public-backed venture capital fund for investment in innovative companies called the Invest Georgia Fund. No funding was included in the final bill, although the intent is to phase in funding over the next five years.

The governor also signed a measure to lower the GPA requirement for the HOPE Grant for students in the technical college system, which he touted as a measure to strengthen the state's workforce development efforts by expanding access to the program. The bill drops the GPA requirement to 2.0 after it was increased to 3.0 two years ago amid budgetary constraints. The program is funded by lottery revenues.

The FY14 General Appropriations bill is available at: http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20132014/128619.pdf.

Hoping to capture new opportunities for economic growth in an emerging sector, lawmakers approved $2.5 million for a cybersecurity accelerator expected to launch up to 10 companies annually. The accelerator, called Mach37, will be managed by the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), whose job is to recruit companies for the accelerator program regionally and connect them with cybersecurity professionals, investors and technologists. Officials hope to attract private investment to sustain the program in subsequent years.

Two major bills were passed in support of the Gov. Bob McDonnell's innovation, entrepreneurship and workforce development agenda, while several others were left in committee. A bill establishing The High School to Work Partnerships program signed by the governor directs the Board of Education to develop guidelines for establishing partnerships between public high schools and local businesses to create apprenticeships, internships and job shadow programs in a variety of trade and skilled labor positions.

Another measure expands the role of the Virginia Workforce Council to advise the governor on policies relevant to increasing alignment and resource sharing between education and workforce programs to improve the pipeline in targeted industry sectors.

The 2012-14 supplemental budget is available at: http://lis.virginia.gov/131/bud/hb1500reenr.pdf.

Georgia, Virginiastate tbed, cybersecurity, higher ed, public equity funds, entrepreneurship