Maine needs jobs and good jobs at that. Bonding to invest in research and development will result in more, better-paying jobs. Consider the story of two companies that must innovate to compete.
Acadia Harvest in Brunswick is learning how to grow fish indoors. Kenway Corporation of Augusta is a composite manufacturer. Acadia Harvest is a new company. Kenway has been making fiberglass in Maine for 50 years. Both recognized the need to test and develop new ideas that will allow them to compete in today’s global economy. Both turned to the University of Maine because of the institution’s quality research facilities, equipment, and scientists.
Acadia Harvest is working with the University’s Center for Cooperative Aquaculture Research in Franklin, Maine to commercialize new fish farming technologies, especially a way to recirculate water that conserves water and reduces waste. UMaine is helping research and test the science as well as supplying juvenile fish from its hatchery. When Acadia’s facility becomes operational, Maine will have a local source of restaurant-quality sea bass for home as well as for export.
Kenway’s challenge was to “scale up” its product to manufacture 100,000-pound submarine docking units for the US Navy. It had been making smaller, molded units, but to meet the Navy’s requirements, the company turned to the University’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center for help with research and testing. The result was a $4 million naval contract for the company.
Maine needs the research and development done by the University of Maine and others to help our businesses adapt and thrive in a changing global economy. According to the Maine Economic Growth Council’s Measures of Growth report, 80% of economic growth comes from innovation. And Maine is falling further behind in the competition for new products and technologies that will create new business growth. Maine ranks 41st in the nation, investing an amount equal to just 1% of our state GDP in research and development compared to 4.4% in New England and 3% in the US.
Maine also needs research and development investment to secure the skilled workers that businesses need to grow. Maine gains new residents to join our workforce when our research and development investment expands. Exciting new business enterprises and innovative technology advances will attract and keep skilled workers.
The legislature and governor need to make robust research and development funding a priority in this year’s bond package.
Be sure to watch MECEP’s State of the State program on Time Warner Cable’s Channel 9, Thursdays, April 17 and 24, at 10 AM, 2 PM, or 6:30 PM for more on research and development and these two companies.