U of M Science Park Banking on Federal Funds

If funds are appropriated under the America Competes Act, the Minnesota Science Park will be in the running to receive up to $50 million in loan guarantees and $750,000 for planning-which would increase the project's momentum.

The University of Minnesota is one of the nation's last major research institutions to build a science park, according to Minnesota Science Park consultant Peter Bianco-but the project may soon get the funding it needs to get off the ground.

As one of the founders of Minnesota Science Park Corporation, LLC-the organization working to get the project funded and built-Bianco hopes to land federal funds under the America Competes Act to spur the development of the park.

The America Competes Act was signed into law by President Obama in January and is currently under review by the federal Board of Appropriations, which hasn't yet allocated funding. If the full amount of funds is allocated, the act would provide select research parks with $750,000 for planning and up to $50 million in loan guarantees from the federal government.

Although the Minnesota Science Park would face tough competition from about 45 other research parks across the country for the funding, Bianco said that the park is “hugely eligible” and he is confident that the money would “enable the kick off of this project in a big way.”

Not only would the money help with the planning and development of the actual park, but Bianco said it would also encourage the University of Minnesota to attach its name to the park and help make it happen.

Bianco said that the U of M has previously indicated that budget constraints have prevented it from leading the development of the park.

“No one is going to do this without the university,” said Bianco, who recently left a lifescience consulting position at local law firm Nilan Lewis Johnson to become an independent consultant.

If the America Competes Act is not approved, or if the Minnesota Science Park is not selected to receive funding, Bianco said that “the project is in deep jeopardy of ever getting off the ground appropriately.”

Bianco said that his organization hasn't determined what it will do if federal funds don't come through.

The Minnesota Science Park Corporation revealed plans for the park in September. The organization hopes to begin construction of the first building-which will be about 60,000 square feet-within the next year. According to Bianco, the park could take 15 to 20 years to complete, but once it's finished, it will span between 750,000 and 1 million square feet.

Bianco said that the park, which will house research labs and space for tenants to lease, will promote economic development by helping the U of M bring technology to market while simultaneously keeping that technology, and corresponding jobs, within the state.

“If companies had a location near the university, they would relocate there,” Bianco said.