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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL)

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Representative Thissen proposes bold plan to make Minnesota global leader in science, technology, and cutting edge manufacturing

Thursday, March 17, 2016

$500 million Innovation, Research and Development Fund would make Minnesota a magnet for high paying jobs

SAINT PAUL, MINN. – State Representative Paul Thissen (DFL – Minneapolis) has introduced legislation (HF 2799) to create a $500 million Innovation, Research and Development Fund for the State of Minnesota designed to make Minnesota a global leader in science, technology, and cutting edge manufacturing – and a magnet for good, high-paying jobs – over the next decade and beyond. In addition, the bill sets aside $100 million in bonding authority for each biennium for the next decade to construct new and improve existing infrastructure for research, development and innovation activities in every corner of the state.

The Innovation, Research and Development Fund will focus on significantly expanding Minnesota’s research and development capacity, jump-starting and supporting “R&D entrepreneurs,” and growing Minnesota’s workforce by training and inspiring the next generation of Minnesota innovators.

“Last Thursday, I witnessed another chapter in Minnesota’s long history of innovation leadership at the opening of 3M’s new Research and Development Building that will house 750 new scientists working to create an even brighter future for all of us,” said Thissen. “Our citizens have long reaped the economic benefits of our state’s innovation leadership, but our position is not secured or guaranteed in a 21st century global economy. Success in the next decades will go to those best positioned to imagine and create the future. The Innovation, Research and Development Fund will put Minnesota on the map as a serious player in that great venture.”

Recent reports show that Minnesota’s tradition of innovation leadership is not something the state can take for granted. Recent reports show that Minnesota is not a national leader in science and technology. Indeed, the state ranks alarming low in research and development investment. Minnesota ranks in the middle of the pack in research and development expenditures overall and performs even more poorly in the level of public research and development expenditures with a rank of 39th overall. Minnesota’s public investment in research and development amounts to 6.8% of all such investment in the state. In comparison, Wisconsin’s public share is 35% of all R&D expenditures, Iowa’s public share is 30%, and the United States’ average public share of state R&D investment is 26%.

"We currently have a significant portion of our surplus that can only be used for one-time purposes. It cannot be used for permanent tax cuts or ongoing spending without jeopardizing our state's fiscal stability. The creation of a long-term innovation, research and development fund with a significant portion of that non-recurring surplus presents a smart way forward that all parties could agree upon," said Thissen. "The amount of investment is scalable but we should not shy away from being bold when it comes to our children’s future and we should not be modest when it comes to our ambition for global leadership in ideas and innovation.”

The legislation creates a Minnesota Research and Development Authority to oversee the fund with a focus on several key sectors of Minnesota’s economy for which we are already global leaders or well-positioned to emerge as global leaders: health and life sciences, food science and technology, water, natural resource, and environmental science and technology, advanced manufacturing and technology, energy technology and production, computer science and information technology, and financial services.

The Authority will be governed by commissioners of several key state agencies and the president of the University of Minnesota with the advice of private sector and non-profit leaders and other key players in Minnesota’s innovation economy including the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, Mayo Clinic, and the Hormel Institute.

The Innovation, Research and Development Fund will include the following initiatives:

Capital Innovations Program: Provide grants to construct new, and improve existing infrastructure for new research, development and innovation activities in every corner of the state, including $100 million in dedicated bonding authority every biennium for the next decade.

Commercialized Research Program: Accelerate the transfer of basic research at our state colleges and universities, nonprofit research institutions, and qualified research and development companies into real businesses and high-paying jobs for Minnesotans by providing grants and loans to assist in commercialization and start-up capital for early stage companies

Federal Research and Development Support Program: Further increase and coordinate efforts to procure federal funding for research projects

Industrial Technology and Innovation and Competitiveness Program: Advance the technological capacity and competitiveness of existing and emerging research and development industries.

Minnesota Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Manufacturing (STEMM) Grant Program: Provide equipment and supplies STEMM education programs, including technological skills needed for manufacturing jobs, for high school students.

High School Opportunity Internships: Provide opportunities for high school students to observe and experience manufacturing, laboratory, and other job activities in key growing and strategic industries and promote paid STEMM internship opportunities for young adults aged 18 through 25.

“Minnesota is known as a brainpower state. Our people have worked hard for generations – and made strategic public investments over decades - to make that true. It is up to us to continue that leadership for our kids and grandkids. The Innovation, Research and Development Fund will help cement that reputation and reality for years to come.”