The Maine Economic Growth Council’s recently released Measures of Growth 2016, the 22nd annual edition, highlights 25 indicators that collectively measure the performance of Maine’s economy.

As a longtime member of the council who has had the privilege of serving as a co-chairman for the last two years, I appreciate the long-term perspective and objective data this report provides for the people of Maine. Our focus is on achieving a high quality of life for all Maine people, which we believe stems from a vibrant and sustainable economy, vital communities, and a healthy environment.

Each year, the council carefully weighs the indicators in the report and any emerging issues that may warrant inclusion. Indicators are evaluated and assigned grades based on their progress relative to assigned benchmarks that are both aspirational and potentially attainable. Stars are assigned to indicators that have demonstrated exceptional performance, while red flags highlight areas in need of particular attention.

Research and development expenditures has been a consistent area of concern, having received a red flag in every Measures of Growth report since 2009. Maine’s total R&D spending has been approximately 1 percent of our gross state product in recent years, consistently falling short of the council’s goal of 3 percent.

Based on the most recent and reliable data, Maine was approximately $1 billion short of the benchmark. By comparison, New England’s average was 4.4 percent of GDP, the U.S. average was 2.9 percent, and the EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) average was 1.7 percent.

As president and CEO of Maine Marine Composites, an ocean engineering firm, and as a member and co-chairman of the Maine Economic Growth Council, I am particularly troubled by Maine’s consistently poor performance on this important indicator. The council’s goal is consistent with the state’s Science and Technology Action Plan and is viewed by the council as necessary to expand Maine’s innovation economy and improve competitiveness in the knowledge-based economy.

Research and development supports innovation, which has been shown to ultimately drive approximately 80 percent of economic growth. Maine’s spending on R&D has yielded a high return on investment, and moving toward the Council’s benchmark can help us to foster an ecosystem that is essential to grow innovation.

In order to drive growth in our economy, it is vital that we find an appropriate mechanism to provide adequate funds for research and development, and equally important that our resources are strategically targeted to generate meaningful economic activity for the state.

Maine is fortunate to be home to some world-class non-profit research institutions and compares favorably to the New England, EPSCoR, and U.S. averages in the percentage of our total R&D spending that comes from the nonprofit sector.

However, we are considerably lower than the other regions in the percentage coming from the private sector. Improving our performance in this area is critical to moving toward the benchmark, which will help support our innovation economy, and ultimately help us move toward the council’s vision of a high quality of life for all Maine people.

Steve Von Vogt is president and CEO of Maine Marine Composites and co-chairman of the Maine Economic Growth Council.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: