AL CARLSON: Using the Legacy Fund to Fund the University Research Initiative

Chris Berg and ND Majority Ldr Al Carlson discuss his new plan on how to use some of the Legacy Fund earnings.

GUEST POST from Leader Carlson:

Over the last year, I’ve worked side by side with Presidents Bresciani and Kennedy to lay out a plan to strengthen research programs at North Dakota State University (NDSU) and the University of North Dakota (UND). I intend to introduce legislation in the next session to fund that plan.

My proposed legislation will take a portion of the Legacy Fund’s earnings and dedicate them to research at NDSU and UND. While the goal is to fully fund the program from the start and provide a recurring investment, the exact percentage of Legacy Fund earnings would be up to the legislature to approve and will be based on the universities meeting certain performance outcomes. Following the initial 2019-2021 biennium, the Legacy Fund earnings are projected to be approximately $400 Million.

This bold new approach to economic development will help diversify our state’s economy and create more good paying career paths for our citizens. The money will be divided equally between NDSU and UND, and will be used as a catalyst for creation of research leading to a) new businesses, products and industries, b) existing economic enhancement and diversification, c) job, career and wage growth, d) tax base enhancement and e) enhanced healthcare outcomes that improve care or reduce costs. These funds will also be used to leverage available federal, corporate, and non-profit research grants.

Our goal is to commercialize new and innovative products and industries to create increased economic activity across North Dakota. The initiative would also be used to strengthen our state’s foundational industries of agriculture and energy, as well as economic clusters vital to the state’s competitiveness, such as autonomous systems, healthcare, and vitality of rural communities.
The proposed legislation would designate that the Bank of North Dakota (BND) act as the funding agency and manager of this program. BND would create a nine-member advisory committee consisting of the President of BND as chair, four members appointed by the chair from companies active in research with North Dakota operations or North Dakota venture capital representatives, the North Dakota Department of Commerce Commissioner, the Chair of the Board of Higher Education and the Presidents of NDSU and UND, or their designee. This group will also assist the universities in targeting areas for research, addressing royalty issues and developing criteria to judge performance outcomes.

Based on the established performance criteria, the committee will review the progress or results of the research. This data will guide BND and the advisory committee in their determination of recommending further investment. BND will provide annual reports to the legislature on its assessment as to how the research efforts by the universities align with the state’s priorities, how the two universities are collaborating where appropriate and if the outcomes of the research meet established performance expectations.

There have been many uses for the Legacy Fund proceeds proposed, but few truly meet the intended use envisioned by those of us who created the fund as does this research initiative. I look forward to working with my fellow legislators to bring to life this important investment in our state’s future.

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