Now that the Maryland General Assembly has adjourned for the year, it is time to take a quick review of significant accomplishments. Amid the hotly-contested debate on honoring soft shell crabs, kudos to the legislature for passing two little-noticed initiatives to create jobs and spur local economic development by leveraging the state's huge academic, federal and private research sectors.
The first initiative, the "E-nnovate" bill, creates a $100 million matching fund to recruit the world's best scholars to Maryland in areas as diverse as cyber security, biotechnology, STEM education, autonomous systems, language science and food safety. The fund will require these scholars to work with other Maryland universities, federal labs or with innovative startup companies, ensuring integration of research into economic development.
The second initiative, RISE (Regional Institution Strategic Enterprise Zone), establishes zones around universities and federal labs to spur local revitalization and create communities of innovation, whether at Frostburg University, University of Maryland Baltimore or on the Eastern Shore. In College Park, there's an effort underway to develop around the University of Maryland and Metro station so the RISE legislation comes at a propitious time to further advance neighborhoods adjacent to the state's flagship campus. While Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in New York passed similar zoning legislation, our state has a much larger part of its economy — nearly six percent — based on the research and development sector, so the opportunities for commercial development around universities and federal labs are strong in Maryland.
A panel of research university presidents from public and private institutions supported the bills, coupled with support from Tech Council of Maryland, Bio Health Innovation, Business Higher Education Forum and other organizations.
Bringing more human capital and development capital to Maryland deserves attention. Surprisingly, these positive actions to improve Maryland's economy have drawn very little attention from the major media. But together they represent serious, smart, statewide investment and policy approaches to helping address long term problems and creating the state of innovation that Maryland can become.
Brian Darmody, College Park
The writer is associate vice president for corporate and foundation relations at the University of Maryland and board member of the Maryland Venture Fund.
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