BANGOR University of Maine System Chancellor Joseph W. Westphal on Wednesday praised Governor John E. Baldaccis proposed bond package and its emphasis on university-based research and development as a logical cornerstone of the plan.
Governor Baldaccis advocacy for university-based research dates back to his days in Congress, Westphal explained. He has been a strong and steady proponent of university research as an essential ingredient in Maines economic development formula.
Baldaccis proposal calls for $197.3 million in State borrowing, pending legislative and voter approval. Of that total, $25 million would address a number of University System needs that both the Governor and Westphal identified as essential investments:
- $12 million for biomedical research and development at the University of Maine and the University of Southern Maine;
- $6 million to help expand the University of Maines aquaculture research facility in Hancock County; and
- $7 million in renovation funds throughout the Systems seven universities and 11 academic outreach centers.
Speaking specifically about the proposed investment in the University System, Westphal said that all aspects of the proposed bonds for university-based projects will benefit Maine and its economy.
The bond package recognizes the tremendous success and potential of the three-way partnership between the University System, the State, and the private sector, Westphal stated. Maine knows from experience that investment in university-based research produces jobs and economic growth.
Westphal pointed to the results of past State investment in university research and development as proof positive that Maine benefits economically.
In the last fiscal year, the University of Maine and the University of Southern Maine used $10.5 million in State funds to leverage $42.8 million in outside grants and contracts, mostly from the federal government, Westphal explained. Thats a four-for-one return on investment.
In all, those funds created or supported the equivalent of 857 full-time jobs right here in Maine, Westphal added. The economic impact of those jobs is enormous.
The States investment of $10.5 million came through the Maine Economic Improvement Fund (MEIF). MEIF was established in 1997 specifically to support the expansion of the long-established research mission of the University of Maine in Orono, and to develop the emerging research capacity of the University of Southern Maine.
MEIF targets seven key areas of economic importance and potential: aquaculture and marine sciences; biotechnology; composites and advanced materials technologies; environmental technologies; information technologies; advanced technologies for agriculture and forestry; and precision manufacturing, Westphal explained.
In addition to the federal and private funds the University System received in FY04 through MEIF-related grants and contracts, university researchers also received an additional $35 million in research funds for other research projects in engineering, the sciences, and the arts and humanities. The combined total of university research funds received and spent in FY04 was $88 million, which created an economic impact of approximately $180 million dollars.
University-based research also has been assisted by voter approval of research and development bond packages in 1998, 2002, and 2003. In all, bond issues have provided $33.9 million in research-related capital improvements, helping to create the infrastructure Maine must have to be eligible for major federal and private grants and contracts.
Established in 1968, the University of Maine System is the state's largest educational entity, with more than 34,300 students enrolled. It features seven universities - some with multiple campuses - located across the state, as well as 11 University College outreach centers and more than 100 interactive distance education sites. For more information, log onto www.maine.edu.
EDITORS NOTE: A detailed report on how the University of Maine System has generated and used research funds to create knowledge, jobs, products, and new enterprises may be found at the following website: http://www.maine.edu/oft/md04.pdf