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States launching innovation initiatives across the country

February 27, 2020
By: Ellen Marrison

Proving that innovation is appealing to states regardless of their size or political leanings, new initiatives in both Democratic and Republican states, as well as large states like California and small states like Vermont, are driving innovation agendas into action in areas ranging from clean energy and aid for students and colleges, to new venture capital investments and bond financing to support business collaborations with higher education to help translate cutting-edge research into products and companies. It is important to note that these new initiatives are in addition to important work that is already occurring in many states. SSTI continues to bring you news of these actions as governors, legislatures, and economic development organizations capitalize on proven programs to build out their innovation economies, with several examples provided here.

In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposed budget includes $10 million in one-time General Fund support that would provide the state match portion for Arizona’s public universities to pursue major competitive national research grants. It is part of a larger $165 million plan put forward by the Arizona Board of Regents called the New Economy Initiative, which focuses on laying the foundation for Arizona to become a Tier 1 state for the new economy, increase employment growth, and raise incomes. Also included in the $165 million is $100 million in workforce development for the three public universities of Arizona.

This week, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced the launch of the Governor’s Innovation Fellowship, a program designed to encourage high-achieving students in Connecticut’s higher education institutions to build careers and remain in the state after they graduate. It will begin as a pilot program this spring and is expected to expand statewide by 2022. Graduates will be provided the opportunity to start their careers with job placement at a Connecticut-based company, have access to mentors to help build their careers, as well as a $5,000 grant to help them get settled. The program will be funded and overseen by CTNext. 

In Illinois last week, lawmakers in the Senate Commerce and Economic Development Committee advanced a measure that would expand the state’s venture capital investment program. Senate Bill 2946 would expand the state’s authority to invest in a venture capital firm that could in turn invest in businesses, supporting innovation and entrepreneurs throughout the state. Funds are from the state’s investment portfolio, not from the state budget, and the bill is up for a vote in the Senate.

Also in Illinois, earlier this month Gov. JB Pritzker announced that the state is moving forward with $500 million in capital funding for the University of Illinois System's Illinois Innovation Network (IIN) and Discovery Partners Institute (DPI), a network of research and innovation hubs that will serve as a magnet for technology and talent. IIN and DPI are expected to create or fill 48,000 new-economy jobs over the next decade, according to the latest economic impact study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group. In all, IIN and DPI are expected to have an economic impact of $19 billion over the next 10 years, a return of nearly 40 times the original state investment.

This week, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed two executive orders to help strengthen the state’s position as a leader in autonomous and connected vehicle development. The first order directs the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) to create a new Michigan Office of Future Mobility to lead the strategic coordination of mobility-related initiatives across economic development, workforce and infrastructure efforts in the state. The second order establishes a Michigan Council on Future Mobility and Electrification to act in advisory capacity and provide recommendations on autonomous and connected vehicle technologies.

Earlier this month, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority approved a pilot program that will provide $2.5 million to help persuade young companies that have completed an accelerator program to house their company in the state. In late January, Gov. Phil Murphy released a plan to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2050, which calls for 7.5 GW of offshore wind as a part of New Jersey’s energy mix by 2035. Earlier in January, Murphy also unveiled “Jobs NJ: Developing Talent to Grow Business in the Garden State,” a talent-based economic development strategy designed to ensure that career-seeking residents have the education and training necessary to access high-quality employment, and ensure that businesses offering such employment can fill their talent needs in New Jersey.

The New Mexico Legislature passed several bills related to economic development, with initiatives that include increasing capital for startup businesses, a reform of the state’s economic investment program that will better help rural communities, and the extension of a tool to recruit higher-paying manufacturing jobs. Also, the new Opportunity Scholarship will cover tuition and fees for students in two-year degree and certificate programs.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced a budget proposal last month that proposes a $12.35 million strategic statewide innovation investment plan building on education, workforce development, and economic development. The new innovation plan includes a $5 million increase for the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority and a $2.5 million increase for Industrial Resource Centers. The proposal would establish an evidence-based statewide annual innovation report; encourage the development of innovation centers outside of larger cities by investing in rural areas; and, bolster R&D and commercialization by increasing state resources for early stage companies and venture capitalists, and requiring collaboration with institutions of higher education.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo’s proposed FY 2021 capital budget recommends financing $20 million in General Obligation bond financing in FY 2020 - FY 2024 to support additional business collaborations with higher education institutions, where cutting-edge research will be developed into new products, services, and businesses. The Innovation Centers program is in the process of negotiating final agreements with selected teams. The program has previously obligated financing to several projects, including the RI Innovation Hub and Accelerator, the University of Rhode Island and Arizona State University Innovation Hub, and the RI Agricultural Technology Park.

ThinkVermont Innovation Initiative is part of proposed legislation in Vermont that would enable the state to contract with technical service providers and provide grants that can be accessed more quickly and with fewer restrictions than traditional federal initiatives. In addition to matching grants for SBIR/STTR Phase I or II recipients and EPSCoR pass-through grant administration, the bill would establish an Industry Research Partnership Program for eligible Vermont companies to apply for grants to purchase services from universities and research institutions to stimulate innovation. The governor’s proposed budget also calls for $1 million to create a Technology-Based Economic Development (TBED) program to create a technology-based business climate by providing matching grants to companies awarded Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants and increasing collaboration between higher education and industry.

The Virginia Legislature is considering HB 1017, which would create the Commonwealth of Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority (the Authority) to oversee and support research, development, and commercialization, as well as related investment and seed-stage funding, in the commonwealth. Existing grant, loan, and investment funds currently administered by the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority and the Virginia Research Investment Committee, repealed under the bill, would be consolidated under the Authority, and the Authority would be responsible for developing an Innovation Index for the Commonwealth. Earlier SSTI coverage of the initiative is available here.


Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginiainnovation, state tbed, states, state budgets