Next week, the Senate is expected to continue its consideration of a tax extenders bill, which contains the deduction for tuition and fees, IRA charitable rollover, and the research and development tax credit. The House, which was in recess this week, will take up the defense authorization bill and perhaps the spending bill that funds the National Science Foundation and NASA.
Durbin to Prioritize Biomedical Research on Defense Panel
From his perch as Chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations panel, Sen. Dick Durbin signaled his desire to boost biomedical research among science and technology programs in this year’s defense spending bill. While Chairman Durbin did not mention specific funding levels for research, he and committee members of both parties expressed regret for the “innovation deficit”—the decreasing trend line in federal research programs that threatens our nation’s global competitiveness. Along with research into traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for troops and veterans, Sen. Durbin expressed support for the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s (DARPA) bioengineering priorities.
Transportation Reauthorization Bill Advancing in Senate
The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee considered a bill this week to renew surface transportation legislation that authorizes federal highway, transit and highway safety programs through September 30. When the text first came out, the university community quickly mobilized because it booted highway research programs (including the University Transportation Center (UTC) grant program important to Urbana and UIC) from the Highway Trust Fund, which would have made UTC subject to the annual appropriations process. After such strong push back, an amendment authored by Sen. James Inhofe was approved, returning transportation research programs to the Trust Fund. Next, other Senate Committees will have to draft the remaining sections—including transit and intercity rail and safety.
ED Announces First in the World Grant Program
The Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education issued a solicitation yesterday for its First in the World (FITW) program. The program, which includes $75 million in competitive grant funding for FY2014, is geared to promote innovative practices in higher education and help more students access and complete college degrees. This is part of the Administration's goal for the United States to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by the end of this decade. Applications are due June 30, and the awards will be announced by September.
CONGRESS ON CAMPUS
Research Park CEO’s to Congressman Davis: Science Supports Jobs, Economic Development
The University of Illinois Research Park hosted hometown Rep. Rodney Davis for a technology and entrepreneurship forum on Thursday. Campus leaders and more than 40 presidents and CEOs of local startups attended the luncheon event in connection with National Small Business Week. The forum underscored the need for strong, sustained funding for scientific research by demonstrating the fruits of that federal investment—new discoveries, products, startup companies, and jobs—against the backdrop of the Research Park’s thriving entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Chancellor Phyllis Wise introduced the congressman after College of Engineering Dean Andreas Cangellaris emphasized the importance of federal research funding to the University of Illinois and the world. “Basic research is essential to our nation’s ability to educate, innovate, and compete in a global economy,” said Cangellaris. “The kind of country we will be twenty years from now depends on the decisions you and your colleagues make today.”
John Busbee and Magnus Andersson, executives from Xerion Advanced Battery Corp. and Autonomic Materials, Inc., emphasized the critical role that federal funding played in enabling their spin-off companies to drive innovation in their fields of energy storage and self-healing coatings. Both companies were featured in The Science Coalition's Sparking Economic Growth 2.0 report, which was distributed at the luncheon and highlights 100 university startups that sprang from federally funded basic research. Other forum topics included federal support for small businesses (SBIR) and how pending “patent troll” legislation would disrupt the university’s fragile innovation ecosystem. Research Park Director Laura Frerichs, whose team organized the event, delivered remarks and moderated the forum.
Rep. Davis—who spoke, fielded questions, and lingered after the program to visit with business leaders—commended the entrepreneurs for stimulating the local economy and creating jobs. He pledged his continuing support of federal programs that support the university and Research Park. He later toured the EnterpriseWorks Incubator, where he interacted with early stage companies and witnessed technology commercialization first-hand. As pictured left, Rep. Davis learned about nascent geared wheelchair technology from Josh George—a 2007 Urbana alum, U.S. paralympian, and Director of Public Relations for IntelliWheels, Inc., a startup whose product makes it easier for individuals to wheel about without assistance and maintain independent lifestyles.
ILLINOIS IN DC
While in DC for a review panel, UIC Associate Professor of Community Health Sciences, Dr. Naoko Muramatsu, also had a chance to meet with AARP Public Policy Institute’s Independent Living/Long-Term Care Team and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. She discussed her progress with an NIH/NIA funded pilot project to test a safe physical activity program for older home care clients led by their home care aides and research comparing the systems for care for older adults in Japan and the U.S.