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States Shift Priorities Toward Long-Term Research Capacity Building

June 26, 2014

This article is part of SSTI's series on trends in state technology-based economic development legislation in 2014. Read our other entries covering legislative action on patent reformcapital & tax credits, technology commercialization & infrastructureworkforce & STEM and manufacturing & clusters.

With an eye toward long-term payoffs associated with investments in research, lawmakers dedicated funds and strengthened ties with industry partners. Some states made significant investments in facilities and R&D to grow cancer research capabilities, while others looked to universities to establish new avenues for discovery or attract star researchers. In Washington, the life sciences community banded together to save a nine year-old grant fund that invests in R&D and helps the state remain competitive.

Two states, Florida and Oregon, passed bills that dedicate funds to elevate their state’s status in cancer care and research. In Florida, lawmakers earmarked $80 million in the FY15 budget for a cancer research initiative announced earlier in the year by Gov. Rick Scott.  Of the amount, $60 million is slated for existing Florida Cancer Centers to attain National Cancer Center Institute (NCI) designation. NCI designation can lead to greater federal funding opportunities and recognition of excellence. The state currently has one center with the designation and hopes to add several more. Another $20 million was approved for projects funded by peer-reviewed research grants (see related Digest article).

Oregon lawmakers approved $200 million in bond funding to expand cancer research facilities and attract top researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University. The funding is part of the Knight Cancer Challenge, which aims to raise $1 billion total with half of the funds coming from Nike founder Phil Knight. The general obligation bond authorization will be used for construction of new buildings with wet lab space and to support facilities for clinical trials.

New York officials hope to build a powerhouse for genomic medicine in the Buffalo area through a partnership between the University at Buffalo and the New York Genome Center. The FY15 budget provides $55.75 million for the New York Genomic Medicine Network, which seeks to advance medical science and attract and grow companies focused on genetics. The initiative is modeled after the $1.5 billion public-private nanotechnology hub created in Albany.

Another university-based research initiative in Maryland aims to leverage private donations with public funds for the purpose of attracting endowed chairs in science and technology fields important to the state. The Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative (SB 601) is a $100 million endowed professorship fund, with state funding spread out over five years. The program focuses on applied research professorships.

Finally, in Washington, the life sciences community stepped up to help save a nine-year old grant fund that was slated for elimination in the budget. With an outcry of support from area life sciences companies, and in recognition of the growth potential in jobs and health within the industry, Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed the $20 million cut in funding to the Life Sciences Discovery Fund. The veto allows the fund to honor existing commitments and proceed with the 2013-14 Proof-of- Concept grant program and Entrepreneur Mentoring grant program. Financial support for the fund comes from the state’s tobacco settlement funds, which is scheduled to run out in 2017. Officials are seeking ways to diversify funding for future operations.

Florida, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Washingtonstate budget, r&d, higher ed