Alabama governor signs measures to boost state’s innovation economy with $9M in appropriations

Alabama is the latest state that is embracing innovation as a way to grow the state’s economy. On May 19, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation that grew from two top priority measures of the Alabama Innovation Commission — proposals discussed between SSTI and commission members in a meeting earlier this year. House Bill (HB) 540 establishes the Alabama Innovation Corporation, a public-private partnership that will serve as a catalyst for the state’s growing innovation economy, and HB 609 creates the Innovate Alabama Matching Grant Program that will promote research and development in the state. Both measures were passed unanimously in the state’s recently concluded legislative session. The initiatives are funded through the Education Trust Fund Budget (enacted May 11), with the Alabama Innovation Corporation receiving $4 million in funding, and the Alabama Matching Grant Program appropriated $5 million.

Useful Stats: Higher Ed R&D expenditures and personnel in nonmetropolitan areas, 2019

Although the nation’s nonmetropolitan economies are less reliant on the R&D activity performed by institutions of higher education than the economies of urban areas, researchers in some rural areas show levels of higher education R&D (HERD) expenditures per R&D employee that are on par, or even exceed, their urban counterparts. Policy makers may wish to consider and prioritize the relative “outsized” importance of HERD funding and related research personnel in future policy decisions and public investments that are geared toward select smaller communities and rural places. For instance, innovation-oriented entrepreneurship concentrates around R&D-rich, knowledge centers, and this data indicates that there are non-metropolitan areas that fit that description.

Innovation and new opportunity front and center in the American Jobs Plan

As noted in our separate overview, the 25-page American Jobs Plan provides goals, highlights and proposals, but also raises questions about how proposals would be implemented and even exactly how much money would be spent. Those details presumably will come in the near future when legislative language is submitted. The document and much of the news covering it is organized around six goals. For our readership, we have taken a slightly different approach. Major themes and key aspects of the proposal are below. All quoted text is from the AJP summary released by the White House on the morning of March 31, 2021.

Congressional moves to increase R&D

While President Biden’s infrastructure proposal with heavy investments in science, technology and innovation garnered most of the press attention in the last week, a number of other developments occurred in or impacting federal policy, including:

Useful Stats: Higher Ed R&D intensity by metro, 2019

Metropolitan areas in the U.S. with fewer than 370,000 residents are more likely to be more economically reliant on R&D performed by colleges and universities than larger metros, according to new SSTI analysis. Three data points are used to consider how R&D at institutions of higher education is impacting a region’s economy: NSF’s Higher Education R&D (HERD) data on expenditures at individual institutions; metro area Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis; and population estimates from the Census Bureau. The resulting analysis shows that despite larger metro areas producing a greater total amount of HERD, they are typically less reliant on these expenditures directly powering their economies.

Useful Stats: Higher Education R&D expenditures by state and field, 2019

Given higher education’s role in generating the knowledge that catalyzes innovative new technologies developed by high-growth startups, R&D conducted at institutions of higher education is one of the most important metrics for evaluating an area’s innovation economy. This edition of Useful Stats examines NSF’s recently updated Higher Education R&D (HERD) survey, finding that most states, although not all, experienced growth in HERD expenditures from 2018 to 2019. This analysis also examines 2019 state HERD expenditures by R&D field, finding that life sciences accounted for the lion’s share of HERD spending in every state except Alaska, typically followed by either engineering; the physical sciences; or the geological, atmospheric, and ocean sciences.

SSTI examines state R&D investment as a share of state GDP, 2009-2018

Industry investment in research and development (R&D) indicates, literally, how invested each state’s businesses are in creating new products and processes. To better-understand industry’s commitment to innovation, business R&D can be viewed as a percentage of each state’s private sector gross domestic product (GDP), providing a measure of research intensity. This measure highlights substantial differences in the orientation of states’ businesses toward research, with some states seeing an investment rate of less than 1 percent while others are above 5 percent. The metric further reveals a broad trend that businesses in many states have stagnated their investments in R&D relative to the overall performance of the economy.

Federal R&D lost over $200 billion due to Budget Control Act, AAAS finds

In the wake of the Great Recession, Congress enacted the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 to curb federal discretionary spending as the nation approached the statutory debt limit. Originally intended to reduce spending by nearly $2 trillion over the period from FY 2012 through FY 2021, the BCA spending caps were periodically raised by Congress. While these negotiations reduced the overall impact of the BCA, new analysis from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) estimates that more than $200 billion in federal R&D spending were nonetheless “lost” to these spending cuts, impacting several key elements of innovation economies — higher education R&D, private R&D investment, and STEM workforce development.

Useful Stats: State business R&D performance paid for by companies, 2009-2018

A thriving innovation economy requires a robust R&D enterprise — with participation by academia, government, and the private sector. As a substantial performer and funder of R&D in the United States, the strength of private industry’s R&D activity in a region can provide an indication of the region’s capacity for bringing innovative technologies to market. Using data from the recent release of the National Science Foundation’s 2018 Business Enterprise R&D Survey, this SSTI analysis shows that while total R&D performed domestically by private companies in 2018 increased over 2017, as did the share of the R&D that was paid for by companies, this was not the case for all states.

Useful Stats: Microenterprise R&D performance by state

Stemming from a collaboration between the Census Bureau and the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation (NSF), a new data set aims to untangle the dynamics of research and development (R&D) performed by private companies. Specifically, the new Annual Business Survey incorporates previously experimental data on the R&D performance by microenterprises — businesses which employ between one and nine people. SSTI’s analysis of this new data shows the total R&D performed by microenterprises in each state, and the portion of that R&D which the companies paid for themselves.


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