Virginia Lawmakers Dedicate Additional Funding for TBED, Higher Ed

“Lawmakers approved many of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposals aimed at growing Virginia’s technology and life sciences industries by dedicating about half of the funding requested by the governor to support R&D, commercialization, SBIR matching grants, and funding for early stage equity investments. To help reach a goal of adding 100,000 college graduates to the state over the next 15 years, lawmakers also passed the Virginia Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2011, providing enrollment-based funding to increase access to higher education and enhancing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields of study.

The legislation and amendments to the 2010-12 budget approved by the General Assembly for attracting tech companies closely mirror components of the governor’s economic development agenda presented to lawmakers earlier this year (see the Jan. 5, 2011 issue of the Digest). Specifically, lawmakers approved $10 million for an Economic Development Incentive payment, which includes:

  • $6 million for the Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund (CRCF) to authorize grants to technology firms, loans to construct wet-labs and for the SBIR matching program. Of this amount, $2 million is earmarked for matching grants for winners of Phase I SBIR awards from the National Institutes of Health; and,
  • $4 million in new funding for the Center for Innovative Technology Gap Fund to provide seed-stage equity investments in Virginia-based technology and science firms.

The governor’s proposal, while similar, called for a $25 million Research and Technology Fund to provide grants and loans to be distributed among three funds: a commercialization fund, a research and matching fund, and Eminent Scholars fund.

Another $5 million was appropriated to seed a new R&D tax credit program approved by lawmakers earlier in the session. Under the bill, companies can claim a 15 percent credit for qualified research, increasing to 20 percent if the research is done in partnership with a Virginia university. The program is capped at $5 million per year.

Lawmakers also passed a measure (HB2324/SB1485) amending the code governing the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Investment Authority to expand its board membership, create a Research and Technology Investment Advisory Committee to review applications for awards from the CRCF, and develop a comprehensive research and technology strategic roadmap for the state. The bill also strengthens the Eminent Scholar Researcher Recruitment program to acquire and enhance superiority at public qualifying institutions.

A measure to repeal an existing solar manufacturing grant program and biofuels production incentive grant program and create a new Clean Energy Manufacturing Incentive Grant (CEMIG) was passed with broad bi-partisan support. The new program will provide incentives to companies that manufacture or assemble equipment, systems or products used to produce renewable or nuclear energy or products used for energy conservation. The goal was to streamline the state’s energy incentives and provide a better return on investment. Eligibility is restricted to manufacturers who make a capital investment of at least $50 million and create at least 200 full-time jobs. Wind suppliers are required to make a $10 million investment and create 30 full-time jobs.

The Virginia Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2011 (SB1459/HB2510) passed by the General Assembly, provides a roadmap for achieving an additional 100,000 undergraduate degrees over the next 15 years, according to the governor’s office. When enacted, the bill will provide a new higher education funding policy, targeted economic and innovation incentives, and the creation of a STEM public-private partnership.

The budget bill (HB1500), providing appropriations for the 2010-12 biennium, awaits action by Gov. McDonnell. Virginia lawmakers will reconvene April 6 to consider any vetoes.” (via SSTI.org (State Science & Technology Institute))

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