Pennsylvania could be missing out on job and economic growth as it falls behind other states in fostering investments in innovation, according to a new, independent report by the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. The study looked at spending by state and local governments, as well as businesses and universities, on research and development and other incentives.
“The state was a leader on this and has gone sideways,” said Mark Muro, one of the authors of the Brookings study.
Among the takeaways from the Brookings analysis is that the “winner-take-most” nature of the current tech-driven economy has highlighted what’s at stake for states that wish to retain their viability. Whether it likes it or not, Pennsylvania is engaged in a competition with other U.S. regions, and countries across the globe, to secure its future economic well-being.
Innovation has long been a source of economic growth for the most successful states, and has only grown more important in this era of rapid technological change. The commonwealth has historically been an innovation leader, and Pennsylvania has a well-developed and proven technology-based economic development ecosystem that can catalyze these efforts if adequately resourced.
The Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority and the Ben Franklin Technology Partners lead in supporting technology-based start-ups and innovation in established manufacturers across the state. Indeed, Ben Franklin is one of the most widely known and emulated state technology-based economic development programs in the nation.
Since 2007-08, “Challenge Grant” funding for the four statewide Ben Franklin Technology Partners centers dropped approximately 50 percent, from $28 million to $14.5 million per year, split among the four statewide centers. The final 2019-20 fiscal year perpetuates that reduced level.
“Economic development is a shared priority, and investments in innovation and high-tech companies that represent the future of our state should be at the top of the list,” said Chad Paul, President and CEO of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania. “We recognize the fiscal challenges Pennsylvania faces and appreciate the funding elected leaders voted to provide to our program. But the funding is half of what it was more than a decade ago. We need to support programs that have boosted our economy so successfully. We need to restore Pennsylvania’s funding to Ben Franklin if we want to maintain our competitive edge in an increasingly high-tech world.”
See the full Brookings Report.
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