Small Science, Tech Cos. Get Matching Funds for Internships

Participating businesses receive up to $2,500 in matching funds for wages paid to student interns hired through a new program called SciTechsperience.

A new program made possible through a $150,000 Minnesota Science and Technology Authority (MnSTA) grant is funding student internships for small science and technology companies in the state-and it's off to a strong start.

The program, SciTechsperience, was established by the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) and launched in February. Modeled after similar internship programs in programs in Ohio and Nebraska, it aims to expand the talent pool for Minnesota companies that are commercializing new technology, products, and processes.

Participating businesses receive up to $2,500 in matching funds for wages paid to interns hired through the program. Internships typically last between 10 and 12 weeks, and interns are hired for specific projects being undertaken by each business.

The program's interns are students in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) disciplines who have a grade point average of at least 2.5 and who are at least half finished with their respective degrees.

Thirty-nine businesses are registered for SciTechsperience, and 11 students have been placed into internships over the past couple of months-although both numbers are continuing to grow, according to MnSTA Executive Director Betsy Lulfs, who expects a lot of hiring for summer internships.

The MHTA reviews student applications and approves them for the program. After they are approved, businesses view the application materials and arrange interviews with potential candidates of their choosing.

For-profit companies that have fewer than 100 employees are eligible to participate, provided that they operate in one of the following industries: aerospace and defense; agriculture, food, and forestry; biotechnology, life sciences, and health IT; fuels, energy, and energy management; IT and computer technology; or mining, materials, manufacturing, and processing.

Participating businesses are eligible to receive funding for up to five interns. Among the businesses enrolled in the program: BioAmber, Comparatio USA, Earthclean, Interred Medical, MEI Research, and SarTec.

The $150,000 in grant money will be available to businesses until it runs out. Lulfs told Twin Cities Business that MnSTA is now asking the state for an additional $750,000 for the fiscal year that begins July 1 so as to be able to continue the program.

“Businesses are telling us a priority is retaining young talent, and this program helps them find and screen talent,” Lulfs said in a statement.