State Rep. Paul Thissen proposed a bill on Thursday that would create a $500 million public-private research and development fund.
 
The House minority leader from Minneapolis said the bill would strengthen Minnesota’s standing as leader in science, technology and high-tech manufacturing.
 
“Our citizens have long reaped the economic benefits of our state’s innovation leadership,” Thissen said, noting the recent opening of 3M’s $150 million research and development building. “But our position is not secured or guaranteed in the 21st century global economy.”
 
Among the initiatives and programs in the bill:
  • Grants to construct new and improve existing research and development infrastructure
  • Accelerate commercialization of work done at state colleges and universities
  • Coordination to better access federal funding
  • Advancing the technological capacity and competitiveness of existing and emerging research
  • Providing equipment, supplies, and training for science, technology, engineering, math and manufacturing industries
  • Promote internships for high school students
 
In addition to the $500 million initial investment, the bill would also allow for up to $100 million in bonding during each biennium in the next decade for ongoing investments.
 
Thissen said the initiative is a wise use of Minnesota’s $900 million budget surplus, because it’s one-time spending that does not create structural issues that ongoing tax cuts or program spending would.
 
“The amount of investment is scalable … [but] we should not be modest when it comes to our ambition for global leadership in ideas and innovation,” he said.
 
The representative’s release also notes that the state standing on research and development is middling at best: Minnesota’s public research levels are ranked 39th overall with public spending only making up 6.8 percent of all investment in the state. That’s low compared to Wisconsin’s share at 35 percent, Iowa’s at 30 percent and the national average at 26 percent.
 
Thissen ranked the R&D fund as one of his top business-related priorities in 2016.
 
“Success in the next decades will go to those best positioned to imagine and create the future,” Thissen said. “The Innovation, Research and Development Fund will put Minnesota on the map as a serious player.”

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