Commonwealth's University Research Investment Program

In November of 1998 Representative John Pippy (R-Allegheny) introduced legislation (HB 2946) in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to create a University Research Investment Program in the Commonwealth. This proposed legislation, developed through the joint efforts of Penn and the other major research universities in the state, would establish a program to award grants to Pennsylvania institutions for research projects that are consistent with the Commonwealth's economic goals and priorities. The bill appropriates $25 million in funds in Fiscal Year 1999-2000 for this program.

This proposal builds on the recommendations set forth in the Governor's Technology 21 report, which outlines a comprehensive technology policy for the Commonwealth. The report recognizes university-based research as a vital component of the Commonwealth's economic competitiveness in high technology. The report states that "Pennsylvania's technology past and future are rooted in its rich infrastructure of university-based research... This rich base of research capabilities also reflects Pennsylvania's most fundamental challenge.... A strategy to better translate research capabilities into jobs and economic development must begin by strengthening the future of these institutions."

Although Pennsylvania ranks fourth in federally funded research, the Commonwealth lags significantly behind other states in the level of state investment for university-based research. In FY 1996, the Commonwealth provided 3.1 percent of total university research funding. In that same year, New Jersey appropriated 7.5 percent of total research funding while Ohio's share was 7.4 percent and Maryland's was 6.5 percent. In North Carolina, a state that is frequently looked to as a leader in high technology, over 14 percent of university research was supported by state funds.

The University Research Investment would be modeled after similar programs in other states and would enhance Pennsylvania's ability to attract increasingly competitive federal and private sector funding. The program would be administered by an oversight committee and grants would be awarded to institutions after a merit review process. Preference would be given to research proposals that demonstrate the greatest potential to leverage additional funding.

This legislation will be reintroduced when the General Assembly begins its new session in January. It is hoped that the proposal will be considered by the Administration and the Legislature in developing the FY 99-00 Commonwealth Budget next spring.

-- Paul Cribbins, Director, Commonwealth Relations

Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 16, January 12, 1999