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University Leaders Ask Support for E-Nnovation Fund, RISE Bills

Leaders of institutions of higher education from across Maryland added their support March 5 to several bills before the Maryland General Assembly that would further Maryland's position as a top location for research-based entrepreneurism by attracting talented researchers and grants, encouraging business growth, and creating jobs. First to testify to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee was Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller, Jr., JD '67, who explained that "we are in competition with our sister states" and that the three proposals before the committee would help "tie business and our universities together to move the state forward economically."

The Regional Institution Strategic Enterprise (RISE) Zone Program bill would allow universities to create special development zones to promote community and commercial revitalization. Businesses locating in RISE zones could claim tax credits and benefit from accelerated depreciation. University System of Maryland (USM) Chancellor William E. Kirwan, PhD, complained that too often the intellectual fruits of Maryland's university research labs are taken elsewhere for development and commercialization. The RISE bill, he said, would help ensure that "the great ideas coming from our local federal labs and university labs will have an incentive to stay in Maryland."

University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) President Jay A. Perman, MD, supported Kirwan's argument, pointing to the University of Maryland BioPark as "a classic example of how the kind of partnership imagined by the RISE legislation can and should work: the state, the city, the University System, and the private sector - all working together for a common goal can help a distressed area and drive economic development." Perman added that the BioPark, formed with similar incentives "enabled businesses that located within the BioPark to employ about 650 people in a range of positions including PhD level scientists; business development, marketing, legal and regulatory personnel; and lab technicians and clinical health care workers. These businesses created a capital investment of over $400 million."

Perman also spoke passionately in support of the second proposal under consideration: the formation of a $50 million Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative Fund. The fund would provide matching grants to businesses to co-fund endowed chairs in targeted areas of science and technology. Endowed chairs, he explained, are critical to lure and maintain the most talented researchers. "Investments to recruit faculty have a multiplier effect," he said, citing an illustrative example at UMB. "Claire M. Fraser, PhD, is a world-renowned microbiologist who launched a new field of study - microbial genomics and, through her groundbreaking research and pioneering leadership in this field, has fundamentally changed our understanding of the diversity and evolution of microbial life on Earth and in the human body." Perman added that, since coming to UMB, Fraser and her team have secured tens of millions of dollars in research grants, played a significant role in the growth of the BioPark, and become a "transformative force on campus."

The final bill under consideration would greatly reduce Maryland's estate tax. Proponents point out that Maryland has one of the highest estate taxes, and is one of only two states with both an estate tax and an inheritance tax. High estate and inheritance taxes, they fear, may cause wealthy retirees to move out of Maryland, greatly limiting tax revenues and reducing incentives to potential university donors. University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) President Wallace D. Loh, JD, MA, PhD, noted that potential donors with larger estates account for a disproportionately high percentage of university contributions. "We just finished a $1 billion campaign," he said. "Eighty percent was contributed by just 20 percent of the people."

Taken together, the testimony of leaders from the state's top universities to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee supported the enormous return on investment Maryland receives from funding for higher education scientific research. Gary Attman, JD, '84, treasurer of the USM Board of Regents, drove home the point, testifying that "last year we [USM universities] enabled the creation of 190 new companies." He also gave examples of the payoff to the state's economy that university-enabled companies have delivered. MedImmune, the biologics arm of pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, recently entered into a five-year, $6 million agreement with UMB and two other USM universities to drive novel bioscience research in Maryland. Similarly, the UM BioPark's Gliknik signed a $25 million deal last fall with Pfizer to license the company's promising new autoimmune therapy.

"We can add fuel to this dynamic growth," Attman said, "by providing encouragement to businesses to locate next to our university campuses."
Posting Date: 03/06/2014
Contact Name: Alex Likowski
Contact Phone: 410-706-3801
Contact Email: alikowski@umaryand.edu