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January 4, 2002

Ohio eyes bond issue for billions in R&D funding

Ohio's top three research universities are proposing a bond act that would let the state's voters decide whether to invest up to $3 billion on collaborative biotechnology research and development over 10 years.

The University of Cincinnati, Ohio State University, and Case Western Reserve University first championed the "Ohio Plan for Technology and Economic Development" last year.

The plan calls for investments of up to $300 million a year for 10 years to recruit biotechnology experts, build labs and finance basic research.

However, state lawmakers rejected an initial request for funding for the plan, and the universities had to fight to retain about $40 million in research funding that had previously been earmarked for research and development from Ohio's share of the tobacco settlement monies. The universities now are proposing a bond act.

The goal of the Ohio plan is to foster in-state research that would help Ohio's institutions compete for increasing federal research funding, and ensure that technology-driven economic growth happens in Ohio.

That strategy closely mirrors one taken by many states, and one that is at the root of similar research proposals that have been advanced in New York State by, among others, Governor George Pataki, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and The Business Council.

In December 2000, Senator Bruno unveiled Gen*NY*sis," a Senate proposal that calls for $500 million in combined public and private investments in biotechnology R&D at universities, corporate R&D labs, and other research institutions, with the goal of fostering economic development in this emerging sector.

In this State of the State message last January, Governor George Pataki proposed investing $283 million in state funds over the next five years to develop high-technology and biotechnology "centers of excellence" at state university campuses in Albany, Buffalo and Rochester. The centers would link university researchers with businesses in areas such as bioinformatics, photonics and optoelectronics, and nanoelectronics, another top priority for The Business Council.

In March, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver introduced a $470 million job-creation plan that included investing $145 million in biotechnology/biomedicine research, development and commercialization projects, creation of five university-based Centers of Excellence, each with a specific focus in areas such as bioinformatics, photonics, nanoelectronics, software and information technology, and environmental technology.

The Business Council has proposed a five-year, $1 billion state investment in research and development collaborations among university, industry, and government research laboratories with the long-term goal of generating economic growth based on new technologies.