Recently, I've been thinking about how innovation plays into our political discussion, or doesn't, as it currently appears. Then, I saw Tom Friedman of The World is Flat fame on C-Span addressing the National Governor's Association. He was so articulate. See my blog for his comments, and mine!  



Legislative Wrap-Up - Budget and Seed Capital Tax Credit Passed 


The Maine Legislature went home in late June, having crafted a balanced budget and dealt with a number of contentious issues. Of interest to the innovation community is the news that the University of Maine, Maine Technology Institute and all the other smaller, state funded programs, received the same appropriations under the budget as in recent years. 


A big win was the passage of LD 22, the bill that transformed the Seed Capital Tax Credit. The Governor signed this bill into law without any fanfare, or press releases, but that doesn't take away from the victory. Under the new law, all qualified seed capital investments will get a 60 percent credit, regardless of where the company receiving the investment is located. Previously many companies could only offer a 40% credit. Another important aspect of the bill was to make the credit refundable for venture capital funds "from away." This increased the incentive for venture funds to invest in Maine companies, because the credit lowers their effective risk. Big thanks to Representative Linda Valentino for her sponsorship and tireless work on this bill, and to Tim Agnew who led a loose coalition of investors and entrepreneurs that have worked on this concept for several years.

The big loss was that there were no bonds approved by this session of the legislature. Several bills calling for R&D bonds were carried over to next year. 

New Study Questions Cluster Impacts 


A recent study of over 1500 companies in Norway concludes that the key drivers of innovation in the country are the communications channels that local entrepreneurs maintain to the outside world, and their open-mindedness toward foreign cultures, change and new ideas. The authors found that companies the maintain ties only within their local cluster are four times less likely to innovate than the globally connected. The study concludes that regional and national clusters are "irrelevant for innovation!" Read the whole study at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09654313.2011.548467.


Jackson Laboratory Abandons Florida Adventure 


For the past two years, the Jackson Laboratory, a jewel in Maine's biomedical community, has been considering an expansion in Florida, lured by promised of state and local funds, and collaboration with the other biomedical research enterprises in the area. In June, JAX announced that it had decided not to pursue this expansion, largely because Florida's fiscal situation affected the amount of assistance they could really commit. JAX remains one of Maine's largest employers, with over 1200 employees, based in Bar Harbor. 


In related news, the Maine Institute for Human Genetics and Health recently announced it was closing its doors after five years. The Bangor biomedical research institution had been a joint venture of Eastern Maine Medical Center, the University of Maine and JAX. The director of MIHGH left last summer. 


Maine Ranked #1 for Infrastructure 


Last year's ARRA and privately funded Three Ring Binder project, a dark fiber network designed to provide the "middle-mile" telecommunications infrastructure needed to serve Maine's business, academic, and telemedicine needs is yielding results. Maine now boasts the nation's highest share of broadband connections over three megabits per second, according to the US Chamber of Commerce. Read about this and other ways that states are coping with budget crunches and the recession at: http://www.uschamber.com/sites/default/files/reports/ES2011-full-doc-web.pdf


July 2011 Issue
Legislative Wrap-Up
Cluster Impacts Questioned
JAX Stays and MIHGH Goes
Maine is #1 in Infrastructure
Technology Transfer Changes
News from Innovation Policyworks

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To Microtechnologies for their new name Kennebec River Biosciences and beautiful new office and laboratory space in downtown Richmond.


To Deb Neuman, most recently of the Target Technology Center in Orono, for joining DECD as the Deputy Commissioner. 


To Becky McKinnell (iBec Creative) and Josh Broder (Tilson Technology), recently named among the Maine Media Forty Under 40. 


To John Spritz, new Executive Director of TechMaine and Harry Brown, E2Tech's new Executive Director. 


If you want to be mentioned in this space, send me your news!


Supreme Court Changes the Technology Transfer Rules 

In early June, the Supreme Court ruled that universities cannot automatically own the rights to inventions that result from federally financed research. This immediately touched off a major debate in the community about this central tenet of the thirty-year old Bayh-Dole Act that laid the ground rules for federally funded research and intellectual property. Some argue that university technology transfer is hopelessly broken, and this decision is a blessing that will allow faculty to break free from the bureaucracy and commercialize their inventions. 


The New York Times disagreed, editorializing that the decision "romanticizes the role of the solo inventor," and "fails to acknowledge the Bayh-Dole Act's' importance in fostering collaborative enterprises." Regardless of who is right, this decision will throw the whole system into chaos for a while. 

News from Innovation Policyworks, LLC


I've just been awarded a contract from the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) DC headquarters to work with Rhode Island, Oklahoma and Idaho to help these states integrate the Innovation Engineering platforms into their innovation ecosystems. This is a great opportunity to work with more rural states, and with Doug Hall.


Innovation Policyworks, LLC, is an innovation strategy and evaluation firm focused on the development and measurement of effective state and regional technology-based policies and programs. This is different from any other offering because we explicitly link policy design and evaluation: recommended programs are appropriately focused on outcomes with a disciplined measurement process in place that allows policymakers and legislators to see what progress is being made and whether improvements need to be considered. 


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