Notes from Innovation Policyworks


It's interesting that the President has recently been talking about the importance of manufacturing and innovation, with the announcement of several new initiatives including on-shoring and regional institutes for manufacturing excellence. His staff are getting the message that many of the folks on the front lines in the states have been seeing for a while - it is the small and medium manufacturers that are innovating that are driving job growth and recovery. So let's help them!


And, in the meantime, let's also talk about a cease-fire in the culture wars that paints a picture of the elite in suits and lab coats, versus the rest of Americans at grubby manufacturing jobs. Because the real picture is that manufacturing these days is a sophisticated endeavor, requiring a skilled worker with science, math and computer skills. The old days of a middle class lifestyle on a high-school education are gone. But we definitely need kids to think about manufacturing as a career, or these jobs will go overseas due to skill shortages, rather than wage differentials!



Maine's Annual R&D Evaluation



Every year since 2000, Maine has received an independent evaluation of its public investments in research, development, entrepreneurship and technology commercialization. These investments comprise the Maine Technology Institute; the incubators such as Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development, Target and Aquaculture Innovation Center; the Patent Program; the Small Enterprise Growth Fund; Seed Capital and R&D tax credits; and the various R&D bonds approved by Maine voters over the years.


The 329 companies that responded to this year's survey had a direct and indirect impact on Maine's economy worth almost $1.5 billion (based on a state investment of $3.6 million.) Over 8,800 jobs in Maine were impacted by these investments.


After several difficult years, surveyed firms appear to be on the move, especially those with 10 or more employees. Job creation and revenue growth are up and firm

performance is improving in other areas as well. The commercialization of research by universities and nonprofits is increasing at a steady pace.


However, the low percent of scientific and technical workforce, however, may limit overall growth. Furthermore, academic institutions are not producing enough graduates with advanced degrees. And, Maine's R&D capacity, especially in the private sector, is not increasing at levels consistent with the goals in the state's Science & Technology Plan.


All of the evaluation reports are available at:  http://www.maine.gov/decd/decd_information/reports.shtml.



Maine's Legislative Wrap-Up


Halfway through Maine's short session of the Legislature, few issues specifically relating to the science and technology community have been addressed. One hot button bill, LD 1314, carried over from last year, and designed to address issues with the definitions of "independent contractor" and "self-employed" was passed in committee last week, but has not yet been acted upon by the House or Senate.


The Finance and Appropriations Committee Hearings held hearings in late February by the various R&D bonds. The fate of these bonds, and indeed bonds in general, is up in the air. The Governor has indicated that he will not bring forward a bond package, and that he is not in favor of any bonds for the ballot in 2012. Republicans are interested in at least a small transportation bond package and perhaps a small R&D bond, while Democrats would like to see both of these and some for education. Whether enough support exists in the chambers for a bond package that could overcome a gubernatorial veto remains to be seen. 



In This Issue
Maine's 2011 R&D Evaluation
Legislative Wrap-up
Kauffman on Regulatory Barriers

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To Wentworth Technology, Inc., a wireless communications firm in Saco, that landed $1 million in equity funding recently, added to a $625,000 round last September and a $350,000 round in October 2010. According to filings with the SEC, the company has five investors. The company is developing wireless headsets for use in drive-thru restaurants.


To Cerahelix, Inc., an Orono based company that is a developing an advanced nanofiltration membrane for water re-use and recycling, upon their receipt of $255,000 in funding from several angel investors, the Small Enterprise Growth Fund and the Maine Technology Institute. Cerahelix spun out of Zeomatrix, another U Maine company, and is a Top Gun graduate and a finalist in the 2011 MassChallenge.


To Blue Marble Geographics, a Gardiner-based GIS software company, for their newly announced alliance with Spatial Energy, a Boulder, CO company. The alliance will enable Spatial Energy's content to be available within Blue Marble's Global Energy Mapper application. In addition, Spatial Energy Beijing Technology will serve as the exclusive distributor of all Blue Marble products in China, including a Chinese language version of the Mapper.


To James Page, former Sewall Co. CEO, upon his appointment as the new Chancellor of the University of Maine System. Dr. Page will succeed Richard Pattendaude. Page, a Caribou native, will be the first UMS Chancellor who was raised in Maine and attended a system university (U Maine Fort Kent!).  


Kauffman Explores State, Local and Federal Barriers to Innovation


A new report from the Kauffman Task Force on Entrepreneurial Growth released in January suggests that state and local barriers exist and prevent disruptive innovation by entrepreneurs and established firms. For instance, Kauffman argues that the one-size-fits all approach to the licensing of everybody who engages in the practice of law prevents the development of low-cost methods of delivering certain types of legal services and innovative business practices. Similarly, Kauffman discusses the regulations and licensing of health care professionals.


Regulation that efficiently balances the risk of harm from bad products such as certain drugs comes under scrutiny in this paper, when compared to the potential loss of significant innovation. Kauffman argues that the likelihood of over regulation is high because of the linkages between the FDA approval process and state tort liability.


Finance gets attention too, in the paper, because, it is argued, federal securities laws, specifically disclosure obligations, are a significant drag on innovation and entrepreneurship. The entire paper is available at:  



Bioplastics Meeting Coming Up

The Sustainable Bioplastics Council of Maine announces its program "From Plants to Products: Seizing Maine's Market Share," April 11, 2012, 8:30 am to noon at Biovation in Boothbay, ME. For more information or to register, visit http://mainebioplastics.org/.


96 Maine Street, Suite 183 Brunswick, ME 04011 207.522.9028
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. Dr. Catherine S. Renault has been delivering innovation-based economic development results in rural states for over 20 years. She has been a technology-based economic development practitioner in two states and consulted with many more, most recently as science advisor and Director of the Office of Innovation for the State of Maine.   For a list of projects, see www.innovationpolicyworks.com/projects.  Starting this week, Dr. Renault will be helping the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development  (MCED) with the Top Gun program and other operational matters while the search for a full-time Operations Manager continues.