Notes from Innovation Policyworks


In a few weeks, the Maine legislature will take up LD 743 to extend the Maine Seed Capital Tax Credit. This credit allows investors and certain venture capital funds to get a tax credit when they invest in a qualified Maine business. In January, the statutory limit of $30 million was reached, and so no more credits can be given until this cap is extended. This is having a chilling effect on a mini-boomlet in angel investing in the state. See my blog for my complete testimony on this important issue. MORE



Innovation-related Bills in Augusta This Session


At the 100-day point of this session of the Maine Legislature, bills are still coming out of the Reviser's office, but 1400 have been released so far and almost all have been assigned to their respective committees of jurisdiction. Mainers should have to read all the titles to see what their representatives are spending their time on, for precious few have to do with economic development or investments to move Maine forward. The twenty-two that are even vaguely connected to innovation (that's 1.6 percent if you do the math) are in several categories. There are three bills so far that are new bond packages for Research and Development and one for STEM education. Another bond proposal from Senator Katz was announced in the press recently. These proposals will probably be combined into a single proposal, and taken up with other bond proposals for transportation late in the session.

One bill of great significance to the community is LD743, An Act to Extend and Improve the Maine Seed Capital Tax Program. This program reached its statutory limit of $30 million in January and needs to be extended in order for new investors to receive this credit. The public hearing on this bill is scheduled for April 29.


Several bills (LD 718 and LD 898) relate to genetically engineered food and organisms, and could be detrimental to the state's bioscience and aquaculture sectors. The public hearing on the first is April 23; the second has not been scheduled.


Another group of bills in the legislature this year relates to wind power. Quite a few aim to reduce the number of wind farms in the Unorganized Territories. A few more are aimed at the permitting process for tidal and ocean wind projects.


Workforce development and broadband infrastructure each have two bills apiece, aimed at removing barriers. LD 623 for instance, increased financial aid, and LD 876 is a resolve to study barriers to further broadband deployment.


There are several concept bills that could be very interesting as their actual text is finalized. These include Senator Woodbury's bills to encourage entrepreneurial investment in Maine (LD 1393) implement the recommendations of the Economic Growth Council (LD 1275), and Senator Cushing's bill (LD 1276) to provide stable funding for R&D in Maine. 

Startup Weekend


Startup Weekends are 54-hour events where developers, marketers, product managers and entrepreneurs come together to share ideas, form teams, build products and launch startups. These weekend-long events begin with pitches on Friday, and sessions on Saturday and Sunday to strengthen, validate and refine ideas. On Sunday evening, teams demo prototypes and receive feedback from a panel of judges.


Over 700 Startup Weekend events have been held in more than 100 countries, yielding more than 10,000 startup companies. The Portland, ME event was the weekend of March 22-24 at Peleton Labs, a local co-working facility. Around 70 participants gathered, and formed nine teams.


The winning team designed a mobile app called Goals with Friends led by Erika Allison of Bangor. The app is designed to allow friends help you be accountable for goals you set, such as weight loss or exercising more.

Crowdfunding Rules Still Elusive


A year has passed since the JOBS bill passed Congress to great fanfare. However, the Securities and Exchange Commission has failed to complete the regulations needed to make crowdfunding, a popular provision of the law, a reality. The regulations would allow entrepreneurs to raise small amounts of money from non-accredited investors, something that is currently illegal due to securities regulations dating to the 1930s.


Things got tense this week as entrepreneurs and investors sponsored an event and grilled the Chief Counsel of the SEC about the regulations. Several entrepreneurs were openly hostile to the SEC and raised the possibility that organizations that disagreed with the law were responsible for the delay. Another possibility is the change in leadership at SEC. Mary Jo White, a former New York federal prosecutor, was confirmed by the Senate as the new head of the SEC this week.

Scientists Rally to Support Medical Research Funding


Thousands of scientists, in DC for the annual American Association of Cancer Research meeting, rallied near Capital Hill to protest cuts to the National Institutes of Health research budget. A $2 billion cut to the NIH budget is one result of sequestration, and scientists say they are having to cut staff and close laboratories. This cut is on top of years of decline in the NIH research budget. 

In This Issue
Innovation Bills in Augusta
Startup Weekend
Crowdfunding Rules Still Elusive
Cuts in Medical Research Funding

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I had the great privilege of being included in a list complied by SSTI, our technology-based economic development association, of eighteen women who shaped our industry. SSTI said, "These women have played a central role in drawing attention to the need for strategic planning, best practices and active engagement with the innovation community." The women on the list include:


Dinah Adkins, Ohio


Dr. Abigail Barrows, Massachusetts


Nancy Bergmann, Idaho 


Lori Clark, Illinois


Marianne Clarke Maryland, (and now residing in Biddeford, ME)


Martha Connolly, Maryland 


Monica Doss, Durham, NC


Pamela Hartley, Connecticut 


Betsy Luffs, Minnesota and Ohio


Marcia Mellitz, St. Louis


Jane Muir, Florida


Catherine Renault, Maine


RoseAnn Rosenthal, Pennsylvania


Marsha Schachtel, Maryland


Susan Snows, Georgia 


Jane Smith Patterson, North Carolina


Sheri Stickley, Oklahoma


Sandra Watson, Arizona

Quote of the Month 


"If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough."


Mario Andretti

Italian race car driver

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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 22 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.  

Cathy has recently been working with E2Tech, a Maine trade association, and the University of Maine to describe and explore the Clean Technology sector in the state. For a list of projects, see www.innovationpolicyworks.com/projects.