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CEO Blog - 10.22.2020 - Endless Frontier Act

On the Horizon: New Communities of Innovation; Billions of Dollars of New Investment 

Seventy-five years ago, Vannevar Bush, an electrical engineer who directed government research during the Second World War, authored Science—The Endless Frontier. His report called for a centralized approach to government research, which led to the creation of the National Science Foundation in 1950 and is credited as a path breaking roadmap for US science policy.  
Over the next 75 years, the federal government invested billions of dollars of research, creating the world’s leading research universities, while places like Stanford University and state of North Carolina launched research parks; tech transfer programs stimulated by the Bayh-Dole Act flourished; and reforms in SEC regulations created the venture capital sector. 
But other countries also made progress in growing their tech-based economies. And a bipartisan awareness grew that something had to be done to improve US competitiveness.
As a result, another “Endless Frontier” is on the horizon. And universities, industry, research parks, innovation districts, economic development officials, cities, states and regions need to prepare. 
The Endless Frontier Act, introduced in both the House and Senate last May, is designed to increase investment in discovery, creation and commercialization of critical technologies. The Act proposes spending $100 Billion for strategically advancing science and tech research and development (administered by a renamed National Science and Tech Foundation), and $10 Billion for Regional Tech Hubs to launch new companies, revive American manufacturing and create jobs for local economic impact (administered by the US Department of Commerce). The following are the tech focus areas:



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AURP CEO Blog Post - 10.02.2020

Former Senators Birch Bayh and Bob Dole

The Economist Magazine, not known for idle puffery, called this ‘one of the most inspired pieces of legislation in the past half century’. The legislation? The Bayh-Dole Act. 
 
The 1980 Bayh-Dole Act helped to unlock the inventions in laboratories across the US that were made with taxpayer money. Before the Bayh-Dole Act was put into law, of the 28,000 patents owned by the US government, less than 5% were licensed to industry.  These technologies were lying on the shelf as the government negotiation process was complex, time-consuming and frustrating for industry. By giving incentives to universities and other entities to take title to patents funded by government research, the legislation created a whole new industry of technology intermediaries at universities and companies to help push the tech transfer process. 
 
Before the Bayh-Dole Act, few universities had tech commercialization offices, and fewer still had tech incubators, research parks or innovation districts to bring together public-private partnerships to fuel economic growth in the US.   The success of California's Silicon Valley and Massachusetts’ Kendall Square, but also places like North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park and the University of Arizona’s Tech Parks would have been inhibited, if not for robust university tech commercialization policies undergirded by Bayh-Dole. 
 
Unfortunately, some policymakers on both the left and right have seized on a provision in the Bayh-Dole Act in an attempt to control medical drug prices. March-in Rights under Bayh-Dole allows the federal government to take back patents if universities or companies have not made good faith efforts to commercialize the underlying technology. But this provision was never intended to be used as a price control mechanism for consumer drugs.  Previous administrations have rejected invoking march-in rights as a price control mechanism, and it would be especially detrimental to smaller biotech companies in our parks. Large pharmaceutical companies would survive but creating uncertainty for biotech patents owned by small companies would hurt bringing in needed capital to create new health therapies.
 
This year, as we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the passage of this path breaking legislation, during the 2020 AURP International Conference (Nov 2-6), AURP is honored to have Joe Allen, one of the Act’s principal architects, leading a special panel looking at the history and policy emulation across the globe. www.aurp.net
 
Other changemaker keynoters include, entrepreneur and venture capitalist Steve Case, on Revolution and Rise of the Rest, along with BIO’s new CEO and President, Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath.  Both the biotechnology industry and venture capital would look very different if the Bayh-Dole Act had not passed back in 1980, stimulating the growth of startup companies and new bio technologies in the US. 
 
Let’s celebrate the amazing success of the Bayh-Dole Act, and ensure it remains a force for innovation and new technologies for the next 40 years.

CEO Blog-04.15.2020: CARES Act

CARES Act: It’s more than Paycheck Protection.
While many AURP members and tenants have been looking at the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in terms of SBA funds and loans, the US Economic Development Agency (EDA) received $1.5 billion in emergency funding for Economic Adjustment Assistance for areas declared disaster areas by the federal government. For the first time in history, all 50 states have been declared disaster areas so there should be opportunities in your community or region to attract EDA funding.
EDA Economic Adjustment Assistance funding is somewhat flexible and administered on a regional basis. Funds might be used for loans, construction and other economic development projects. In the past, several research parks and incubators have received funding from the EDA for planning, development and expansion. Details should be forthcoming from EDA on ways to apply for funding. Partnering with organizations in your region that have successfully applied for EDA funding in the past is one strategy to increase likelihood of success. Note also local matching requirements are usually necessary so plan for that eventuality.
Many federal research agencies have also received increases in base research budgets under the CARES Act, which should increase SBIR and STTR funding opportunities for your tenants since SBIR funding is based on percentage of an agency’s total research budget. So stay tuned for that when new proposals are issued later in the year.
Note that Congress has announced it will be in recess until May 4, meaning confirmation hearings, such as for the NSF director, are on hold until then. Coronavirus funding bills could be considered in the interim, but would require unanimous consent, which would be difficult to achieve. Unlike many of our parks and tenants, Congress has very few tools to operate remotely. Let’s hope they fix that at some point.
Meanwhile stay safe and connected.