Roscoe Streyle: The Best Way to Diversify North Dakota’s Economy Is to Invest in Research

EERC Principal Research Scientist Ramesh Sharma works in his lab at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. (Photo courtesy of EERC)

This guest post was submitted by Minot resident Roscoe Streyle.

What is the one thing the Legislature could do to set the stage for economic diversification?  Yes, there’s many, but the one that could have the biggest impact for the least amount of money: Invest in R&D, Research and Development, not just research in general, but specific areas of research.  The best place to invest research and development money in North Dakota, on par with NDSU Ag Research, is the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) in Grand Forks.  This organization is hands down the best in the business, the leadership team, the engineers, their private sector partners, the in-field researchers, etc., there is nobody better than this great organization.

Since 1951, the EERC, as described on their website is a world leading developer of cleaner, more efficient energy and environmental technologies to protect and clean our air, water, and soil.  They have worked with over 1300 clients in 52 countries, from Fortune 500 companies to small start-ups.  EERC is a very unique organization that focuses on demonstrating technology in the lab and in the field, then moving into the commercial marketplace.  As they say, “The ultimate goal is to work in partnerships with clients to develop, refine, demonstrate, and commercialize marketable products that provide practical solutions to real-world challenges.”

I bet if you did a survey very few North Dakotans could tell you what they do, what they research, how they are funded or what they have done for North Dakota.  The Legislature has historically not directly funded this organization (2017 session they received matching grant money in the Commerce Budget), but has indirectly funded them through NDIC’s Oil and Gas Research Council, Renewable Research Council, and Lignite Research Council for heavily leveraged projects and other near term priorities.

The EERC is doing great work every day, and North Dakota Government needs to recognize this hidden gem and fund them more appropriately on a consistent basis; they will invest the money wisely.

One of the biggest issues North Dakota Universities need to get resolved and fast is getting intellectual property from the institutions into the marketplace more seamlessly.  If UND, NDSU, and others would follow the lead of EERC in this manner, we’d have many more business startups coming from the University System.  Former Commerce Commission Jay Schuler tried very hard to revamp the entire technology/intellectual property development and transfer system within the University System; it’s still a work in progress.  This must be a top priority for North Dakota, one can’t underestimate the importance of fixing this problem.  The Legislature, Governor, Commerce Department, and the University System can solve this problem.

SB 2249 creates the state energy research center and allocates $6 million from the state share of oil & gas revenues on an on-going basis to the center.  The $6 million for the biennium promises and will deliver many multiples to our economy!  I’d challenge the ND House of Representatives to raise the appropriation to $10 million!  This bill is pure brilliance and the North Dakota Senate deserves a ton of credit for passing this legislation.

This is just the kind of thinking that needs to happen in Bismarck!  In my opinion this is and would be a massive win for North Dakota!  It’s one of the top 10 most important bills of the entire session.  There’s so many bills that really don’t mean anything or do anything, only a couple dozen or so really have a true impact, this is one of those bills.

Take the time and visit http://www.undeerc.org to see what they are up too.  Also contact your State House Legislators and tell them to support SB 2249.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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