Legislative Update

Federal Relations

The FY2001 budget submitted by President Clinton to Congress in February includes funding recommendations for several technology based programs and initiatives. These include:

  • National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI)--$495 million across six federal agencies to support long-term fundamental nanoscience and engineering research, centers and networks of excellence, instrumentation, research on ethical, legal and societal implications of the research, and support for workforce education and training.
  • Information Technology Research and Development--$2.3 billion across seven federal agencies, led by the National Science Foundation, to support fundamental research in software, development of information systems that ensure privacy and security of data, and support for continued advances in high speed computing and communications.
  • Promoting Bioenergy and Biobased Products--$289 million to support R&D in bio-based technologies, which convert crops, trees and other biomass into a variety of fuels and products.
  • Education Technology Research and Education Technology Initiatives--$1-billion initiative combining 10 programs aimed at using communications technologies to improve teaching and learning at all levels, at widening access to electronic educational resources, and at developing better methods for teaching and learning mathematics and science at the preK-12 levels.
  • Technology to Defend America Against 21st Century Threats--$1.25 billion for three R&D programs aimed at countering emerging terrorist threats: Critical Infrastructure Protection, Weapons of Mass Destruction Preparedness, and Institute for Information Infrastructure Protection.
  • Biomedical Information Science and Technology Initiative-- $147 million for a trans-agency, inter-disciplinary initiative using research centers, research training awards, research contracts, etc., for supporting bioinformatics and molecular computational biology research and training projects.

It should also be noted that Congress is currently considering a budget resolution, or overall spending outline, for FY2001. The House of Representatives agreed to its version of a budget resolution on March 24, 2000. While specifics of the House proposal are not currently available, it has been reported that this proposal would increase discretionary budget authority by $7.5 billion to a level of $596 billion. In addition, it also reportedly provides increases for education, basic research (including a $1 billion increase for NIH), general science, and health. The Senate has yet to consider its budget blueprint.

Commonwealth Relations

One of Governor Ridge's highest priorities has been to reshape the image of Pennsylvania from a heavy industrial state to a leader in the technology-based economy. Consistent with that priority, the Governor has initiated various programs designed to ensure that the Commonwealth and its citizens are prepared for the new digital economy. Some of the major initiatives include:

Governor's Technology 21 Initiative--Created under the Governor's 1999-2000 budget, this program includes the creation of the Pennsylvania Technology Investment Authority (PTIA). The Authority is a regional based financing tool to enable Pennsylvania businesses and communities to thrive in the Digital Economy. The PTIA Board will include businesses, venture capital, university, legislative, local government and service providers. The proposed FY 2000-01 funding for PTIA includes a $15 million fund to support strategic investment in university-based research initiatives which have commercial applications.

CyberStart--CyberStart is a program designed to connect pre-school kids to the web by offering free internet access for more than 4,000 licensed day-care centers. The program is seeking to establish Pennsylvania as a "Center for Creative Learning" by linking university and private research resources to develop innovative Internet-based technology, capitalizing on newly emerging early child-development research to stimulate and challenge children's minds.

Link-to-Learn--Link-to-Learn is Governor Ridge's multi-year, $166 million initiative aimed at expanding the use of technology in the classroom, including new and upgraded computers for schools and technology training for teachers. Link-to-Learn also is developing a system of community-based networks called the Pennsylvania Education Network (PEN) which will connect Pennsylvania's classrooms, libraries and higher education institutions to each other and the world. Joining this initiative, is a newly announced partnership with Oracle Corporation to implement "beehive technology" in Pennsylvania's K-12 schools. The Governor recently announced that Pennsylvania will become the first state in the nation to roll out this advanced educational technology which will allow Pennsylvania's schools to better communicate globally, locally and across the state.

New Economy Scholarship Programs--The Governor has created the SciTech Scholars and the GI Bill for Pennsylvania college students to prepare them for the high-skill, high-wage technology jobs in the "New Pennsylvania." Pennsylvania college students with a 3.0 GPA are eligible for up to $9,000 for students studying technology at Pennsylvania colleges and universities. In return, they agree to work in Pennsylvania for up to three years after they graduate.

City and Community Relations

The Office of Government, Community and Public Affairs is a member of the City of Philadelphia College Student Retention Committee (PCSRC) which is an initiative of the City's Office of the Commerce Director and City Representative and State Senator Vincent Fumo. The Committee recognizes the need to retain undergraduate and graduate level college students in the Philadelphia area, in order to grow and develop the critical economic base of Philadelphia with young, educated, and vital talent. To achieve this goal, the committee focuses on enhancing Philadelphia's image by promoting Philadelphia as a College Town and by increasing awareness of and access to career opportunities in Philadelphia.

As part of this initiative, the committee sponsors a free annual conference for all area university undergraduate and graduate students designed to encourage entrepreneurial talent and to demonstrate that Philadelphia is a good place for them to start and operate a business. The Second Annual Entrepeneurship Philadelphia Conference will be held on April 14, 2000 from 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. in the Fox and Gittis Foyer, The Liacouras Center at Temple University's Main Campus. Lunch and breakfast are provided.

Mayor John Street and State Senator Vincent Fumo will welcome and kickoff the all-day Entrepreneurship Philadelphia Conference, sponsored by the Philadelphia College Student Retention Committee, Temple University's Fox School of Business and Management, the Innovation Factory, and Ben Franklin Technology PArtners .

The first part of the conference will highlight six successful young entrepreneurs from Philadelphia and the region. Speakers include the founders and management of egenda.net, Amazhan Apparel Company, Lucy's Hat Shop, Forte Systems, eCal, and BioSupplies.com. The second panel represents the how-to portion, with intellectual property lawyers, venture capitalists, and technical advice on how to make your business plan a reality. The keynote speaker will be Joshua Kopelman, Cofounder and CEO of Half.com.

The final part of the conference includes a business plan competition with five $1000 cash awards. Undergraduate and graduate students are encouraged to submit a five-page business plan by April 1 to be evaluated by a panel of business experts. Submission requirements are available by calling (215) 204-3856. Although the conference is free, participants must register by April 7, 2000 by calling Christina Ferris at (215) 204-3856. Penn faculty should encourage their entrepreneurial students to attend the event and submit their business plans for review.

Last year's event, hosted by Drexel University, welcomed over 130 students from at least 13 different area colleges. It is anticipated that attendance at the conference will grow this year. One of the five business plan winners was a team of Wharton undergraduate students who had created an e-commerce venture, HeyU.com.

--Carol R. Scheman, Vice President for Government, Community, and Public Affairs

Almanac, Vol. 46, No. 26, March 28, 2000

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