Legislation would bolster funds for OU
Henry seeks financing for research endowment
The state research endowment fund, Economic Development Generating Excellence, needs permanent financial support to help reach its account goal and create more job opportunities, according to Gov. Brad Henry.
OU stands to gain from the expansion of the fund, which is already slated to pay out $4 million for research at OU over the next two years.
During a state legislative session, Governor Brad Henry stressed the importance of a bill that will earmark the future interest earnings of the state’s emergency Rainy Day Fund for the EDGE research fund.
The EDGE research endowment is worth about $150 million. Lawmakers hope that eventually it will reach $1 billion.
“Gov. Henry believes it is critical [to fund EDGE] for long-term economic growth, as it already funds multiple research projects,” said Paul Sund, communications director in the governor’s office. “Through EDGE, [Oklahoma] will be able to spin off more high paying jobs and form new corporations.”
EDGE funded five research projects last year. Two of those projects were on OU’s Norman campus and two others were conducted at the Health Sciences Center, said Paul Risser, OU chairman and chief operating officer of the University Research Cabinet and EDGE Executive Director.
The endowment will allocate $4 million to the Norman campus engineering, weather and wind energy programs over two years.
Each program is expected to report on its performance to EDGE. EDGE will report back to citizens in a year, when the effects of the research have become more apparent, Risser said.
“As the leader in higher education research and a major recipient of EDGE funding in the past, finding a permanent source of EDGE funding would be very beneficial to OU,” President David Boren stated in an e-mail. “It would also help create more jobs based from OU research for our graduates.”
Henry created the EDGE task force in 2003 as a blueprint for technology and innovative research, with hopes of creating jobs, said Rachel Waldrop, EDGE executive assistant.
“Our ultimate goal is to stimulate economic growth in Oklahoma, and try to make the state into a world competitor in research,” she said.
Risser said EDGE began funding research last year. The endowment allocates the interest it earns off its $150 million endowment to the projects.
Sund said the state could expect to see more research projects being funded in one or two years.
Permanent state funding will supplement the endowment if the state legislation passes the bill this year, he said.
If the bill does not pass this year, EDGE will continue to fund projects with the interest from its endowment, but will be slow to expand its funding prospects to other research projects, Risser said.
“The bill seems to have a lot of support with businesses and some legislators, but we never know in this difficult budget year,” Sund said. “We are cautiously optimistic.”
Legislators will vote on the bill at the end of session in May.