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Louisiana Innovation Council Seeks Funds for Research Agenda

March 03, 2010

In a report to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget this week, the Louisiana Innovation Council set forth an agenda to recruit world-class researchers, establish centers of excellence, and facilitate university-based technology transfer. In a tight budget year, the council recommends using some of the remaining Louisiana Recovery Authority funds and private sector money to support the initiative with a minimum $15 million total commitment over three years.

The council wants to create a Louisiana Research Alliance, similar to the Georgia Research Alliance, which has demonstrated success in its efforts to drive economic impact through applied research by leveraging public and private funding to encourage collaboration among research universities. The council's other recommendations include increasing capital availability, increasing research capacity in higher education and the private sector, strengthening commercialization and technology transfer performance, and developing a stronger system to provide support to entrepreneurs.

During the upcoming legislative session, lawmakers also will consider a higher education bill announced by Gov. Bobby Jindal theat would allow colleges and universities to increase tuition and allow for greater flexibility in exchange for meeting certain statewide performance goals, including increasing graduation rates. The LA GRAD Act, or Granting Resources and Autonomy for Diplomas, is based on recommendations of the Postsecondary Education Review Commission whose findings indicated a substantial disconnect between the state's postsecondary education system and statewide and regional economic development needs, according to the governor's office.

Designating centers of excellence and increasing research productivity and technology transfer at research institutions to rise to levels that are consistent with institutional peers, specifically research in key economic development industries, are among the performance expectations of the LA GRAD Act.

The bill that will be introduced into the legislature would grant colleges and universities limited operation autonomy and tuition and fee authority. Louisiana is the only state that requires two-thirds legislative approval in order to increase tuition, reports The Advocate. The proposed legislation would allow colleges to raise tuition by 10 percent per year until they reach the average costs of their regional peers. The Advocate article notes that tuition would increase substantially for Louisiana universities under the proposal, which has some of the lowest rates in the nation. Louisiana State University would need to increase its fees more than 50 percent to reach peer averages, for example.

The governor's FY11 budget proposal maintains level funding for higher education and increases funding for academic scholarships by $4.7 million. Within the Department of Economic Development, the governor recommends $15 million for the Governor's Economic Development Rapid Response program to secure economic development opportunities for the state and $4 million for the Fast Start Program. This program provides workforce training services to produce turnkey workforce solutions for new business opportunities or expansions of existing businesses. For the state's three wet lab incubators supporting technology companies, the governor recommends $1.3 million from the Louisiana Economic Development Fund.

The governor's FY11 budget proposal is available at: http://doa.louisiana.gov/opb/pub/FY11/FY11ExecutiveBudget.pdf