Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Scott-O-Meter

Support university-private partnerships

"I support the State University System partnering with government and private industry to pursue advanced applications, production and research in sustainable energy endeavor. Therefore we will pursue additional programs such as the FHTCC throughout the state." *(Florida High Technology Corridor Council)


Updates

State funding for a university project, but no new action on corridor council-type programs

During his 2010 campaign, Rick Scott said he wanted universities to partner with private industry "to pursue advanced applications, production and research in sustainable energy endeavor." As part of that promise, he said he wanted to pursue additional programs such as the Florida High Tech Corridor Council throughout the state.

We found that the state has sent some money to university-private partnerships under Scott's watch. But he hasn't done anything significant to create new programs like the the corridor council.

The corridor council, launched in the 1990s, is an economic development initiative of the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida and the University of Florida to grow high-tech industry and innovation through research, workforce and marketing partnerships.

A similar effort effort is underway in South Florida called Life Sciences South Florida, which aims to recruit workers for life sciences and IT and improve workforce development. In March as part of that collaboration, FIU hosted a BioFlorida Latin America & Caribbean Life Sciences Conference, which brought together industry professionals and universities. But we couldn't find evidence that Scott should get any credit for Life Sciences South Florida, because it launched while he was campaigning in 2010 and has not sought any state money.

A spokesman for Scott pointed to a few line items in the state budget in 2014 that gave money to universities for various projects that included partners in the fields of science and technology.

One in particular included renewable energy research, so we will focus on that project. (The other ones cited by a Scott spokesman were money given for projects such as a Heart Health Institute at the University of South Florida and Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute.)

In 2009, Florida Gulf Coast University announced a $1 million gift from John D. Backe, president of the Backe Foundation Inc., to establish a fund to attract a nationally renowned scholar dedicated to the study of renewable energy. The university and Backe also announced they would collaborate to develop a 1.2 million square-foot Emergent Technologies Institute for studying renewable energy, solar energy, alternative energy sources, biotechnology, green technology and other programs.

The state gave $11.7 million between 2012 and 2014 for the facility. The university plans to complete construction in 2015.

The institute "will offer students STEM degrees and research opportunities leading to employment in existing and emerging technology fields – while supporting the diversification of Southwest Florida's and Florida's economy," said Susan Evans, university vice president and chief of staff.

Scott said he wanted universities to partner with private industry "to pursue advanced applications, production and research in sustainable energy endeavor." Florida Gulf Coast University, which has received considerable state funding, is a good example of that partnership. We haven't seen much movement on the second part of his promise to pursue programs such as the Florida High Tech Corridor Council throughout the state.

We rate this promise Compromise.

Sources:

FIU press release, "FIU hosts BioFlorida's first Latin America-U.S. conference in life sciences," March 24, 2014

Florida Gulf Coast University press release, "FGCU Announces Major Gift to Establish Chair Dedicated to the Study of Renewable Energy," Oct. 13, 2009

Interview, Susan Evans, Vice President and Chief of Staff Florida Gulf Coast University, Aug. 13, 2014

Interview, John Tupps, Gov. Rick Scott spokesman, Aug. 8, 2014

Interview, Irma Becerra-Fernandez, FIU vice president for engagement, Aug. 8, 2014

Some movement at Life Sciences South Florida, but not much otherwise

Gov. Rick Scott has long viewed higher education as a pathway to growing jobs. One way to stoke job growth is by encouraging partnerships between state universities and the business world, according to Scott.

During his 2010 campaign, Scott said he wanted universities to partner with private industry "to pursue advanced applications, production and research in sustainable energy endeavor." While that's a very broad promise, he did narrow it by saying he wanted to expand the Florida High Tech Corridor Council throughout the state.

The corridor council, launched in the 1990s, is an economic development initiative of the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida and the University of Florida to grow high-tech industry and innovation through research, workforce and marketing partnerships. The legislature appropriated $7.1 million a year for every year of Scott's tenure -- the same as Gov. Charlie Crist's last year in office.

The Legislature and Scott also approved an additional $2 million for grants programs in 2012-13 and $2 million in 2013-14.

As Scott finished his third year in office we wanted to check on his progress on university-private partnerships and expanding the high-tech council.

A spokesman for Scott pointed to one example: a public-private partnership to build student housing at Florida Atlantic University in 2011. We did not see how that dorm was related to expanding the high-tech council or "advanced applications, production and research in sustainable energy endeavor."

We also contacted some officials at universities to ask if they knew of any developments related to Scott's promise to expand the high-tech corridor.

Officials at FIU pointed to Life Sciences South Florida launched in August 2010 when Scott was campaigning for governor.

The group's goals include recruiting workers for life sciences and IT, developing a regional internship program and improving workforce development, for example by building programs that range from one-year certificates to postdoctoral. The project has multiple partners including universities, research parks and South Florida economic development agencies, but it has not asked for state funding so far, though it plans to do so in the future. Life Sciences has applied for federal funds but hasn't received any such money. The initiative held a STEM symposium at Miami Dade College in March and plans a similar one for students to present their work at FIU in 2014.

"We are inviting industry to come in as judges and view presentations,"said  FIU's vice president for engagement Irma Becerra-Fernandez. "It's an opportunity to identify talent for internships."

Scott promised to support university-private sector partnerships that "pursue advanced applications, production and research in sustainable energy endeavor," including adding programs similar to the high-tech corridor council throughout the state. There has been some movement in this area with respect to Life Sciences South Florida, but we haven't seen any involvement from Scott for that project.

We'll watch Scott's final legislative session of his current term to see if there is more movement in this area. For now, we keep this promise at In the Works.

Sources:

Sun-Sentinel, "Public-private projects could boost economy, add jobs," July 14, 2013

Interview, Roger W. Pynn, APR, CPRC | President and spokesman to the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, Dec. 30, 2013

Interview, John Tupps, Gov. Rick Scott spokesman, Dec. 17, 2013

Interview, Randy Berridge, president of the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, Dec. 23, 2013

Interview, Irma Becerra-Fernandez, FIU vice president for engagement, Dec. 23, 2013

Interview, Dan Holsenbeck, vice president for University of Central Florida, Dec. 23, 2013

South Florida schools talking about economic development cooperative

In a campaign document about his education plans, Rick Scott made it clear that he thinks higher education is all about "preparing a new workforce." He wrote that state and local governments should partner with schools to create innovation and incubator systems and facilitate the venture capital process for entrepreneurs.

One of the groups he singled out was the Florida High Technology Corridor Council, which "brings together the three largest universities in Florida to partner with regional workforce agencies, state colleges, community colleges, and private institutions to foster high technology industry in Central Florida," he said.

He went on to promise to "pursue additional programs such as the FHTCC throughout the state."

What has happened since Scott took office?

The Florida High Tech Corridor Council (FHTCC) is an economic development initiative of the University of Central Florida (UCF), the University of South Florida (USF) and the University of Florida (UF). The mission of FHTCC is to grow high tech industry and innovation through research, workforce and marketing partnerships. More than 20 economic development organizations and 14 community colleges are involved.

We contacted FHTCC to ask if it had expanded since Scott was elected or if they were aware of new similar endeavors.

Randy Berridge, president of FHTCC, responded in an email that several South Florida universities are discussing, with Scott's support, plans to form an FHTCC-type cooperative. Berridge told us the universities in talks are Florida International University, Florida Atlantic University, Florida Gulf Coast University and the University of Miami.

Berridge said FHTCC is also expanding its grant research program. "Each year we have more and more companies partner with us. For instance, last year we had almost double the number of companies bring qualified projects to our university research partners."

Scott stated a broad goal here about universities teaming up with government and the private industry and pursuing programs similar to the FHTCC. The president of FHTCC said that other universities are in the process of developing a similar initiative -- and we'd like to see if that comes to fruition. For now we rate this promise In the Works.

Sources:

PolitiFact, "Rick Scott said the corporate income tax fueled Bing Energy's move to Florida," March 8, 2011

Gov. Rick Scott's communications office, Responses to PolitiFact's questions about the Scott-O-Meter, Dec. 28, 2011

Interview, Randy Berridge, president of the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, Dec. 12, 2011