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Lawmaker proposes $500M fund for MN to focus on science and tech

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A Minnesota lawmaker has a bill he says will help make Minnesota a global leader in technology, science and manufacturing.

Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, has introduced a House bill to create a $500 million Innovation, Research and Development Fund, with the lawmaker noting in a news release that the state ranks alarmingly low in public research and development investment.

"Success in the next decades will go to those best positioned to imagine and create the future. The Innovation, Research and Development Fund will put Minnesota on the map as a serious player in that great venture," Thissen said in the news release.

The bill would create a Minnesota Research and Development Authority governed by commissioners from various state agencies who would oversee the fund.

The authority would focus on advancing some specific sectors of the state's economy.

Here's a look at some of the initiatives Thissen has proposed:

  • Provide grants to construct and improve infrastructure for new research, development and innovation activities statewide, including $100 million in bonding authority every biennium for the next 10 years. (In the release, Thissen gave the example of the new 3M research facility that was unveiled last week.)
  • Grants and loans to give early stage companies start-up capital. This would help accelerate the transfer of "basic research" at state colleges, nonprofits and research and development companies into real businesses with high-paying jobs.
  • Increase and coordinate efforts to secure federal funding for research projects.
  • Provide equipment and supplies for science, technology, engineering, math and manufacturing (STEMM) education programs for high school students through a grant program.
  • As well as provide opportunities – including paid internships – for high school students and young adults in STEMM-related job activities.

Some of the money for the fund could come from the state's budget surplus, the release notes. A portion of the budget surplus can only be used for one-time purposes, Thissen explains, noting using that non-recurring surplus "presents a smart way forward that all parties could agree upon."

"The amount of investment is scalable but we should not shy away from being bold when it comes to our children’s future and we should not be modest when it comes to our ambition for global leadership in ideas and innovation," Thissen said in the release.

Thissen's bill was read for the first time March 10 and referred to the Committee on Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance.

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