Frank Brogan on Investing in Education
Frank Brogan's take on the value of top-notch education? "Florida’s economic marquee has contained agriculture, tourism and growth as its stars for a long run. But while these sectors have been very good to the state — and instrumental in forming the Florida we know — it is clear that a more diverse, sustainable economy is necessary to stay nationally and globally competitive… ."
Banking on Education By Frank T. Brogan Originally published in the Dec 2010/Jan 2011 issue of 850 Business Magazine
Florida’s economic marquee has contained agriculture, tourism and growth as its stars for a long run. But while these sectors have been very good to the state — and instrumental in forming the Florida we know — it is clear that a more diverse, sustainable economy is necessary to stay nationally and globally competitive.
Consider the powerful impact of 11 highly productive state universities working together to transform Florida and its economy. That is the New Florida Initiative — and it holds even greater promise in regions such as “the Great Northwest” because of the larger, unfettered painter’s palette with which to work.
Launched in January in partnership with the Florida Legislature, the New Florida Initiative is a multi-year endeavor to ensure a knowledge-based, high-skill innovation economy is sustained by high-technology, high-wage jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (or STEM). But it’s also about far more than the STEM disciplines, because a genuine and holistic transformation also will involve medicine and health care, finance, insurance, professional services, education and all the humanities and fine arts — all of which are key elements in the foundation of a modern society.
This initiative is an effort by the State University System, working alongside business and government, to deliver the economy, talent and innovations that Florida needs. Our universities are committed to providing a return on investment that only the university “market” can bring to bear — and I am confident that we’ll achieve it in spades.
Our very first points for this game-changing undertaking were put on the board this fall. The Board of Governors of the State University System utilized $12 million provided by the Legislature to award a series of grants that we know will better leverage the “collective genius” of our public institutions.
The first $2 million was focused on bringing to market the discoveries and products of the university research community. These research-to-market and commercialization grants in Northwest Florida are:
FAMU – Patented Health Care Technologies, $65,000 Prepare comprehensive business plans for four recent patents. Develop a Commercialization Training Program and Forum for faculty innovators.
FSU – Post Doctoral Entrepreneurial Program, $100,000 Grow an internal pool of entrepreneurs by training Ph.D. students, post-docs and faculty to start companies resulting in new science-, engineering- and health-related start-ups from FSU technology.
FSU – Pacifier Activated Lullaby, $200,000 A product that stimulates non-nutritive sucking — the organized breathe-suck-swallow activity critical to an infant’s survival and physiologic development yet seriously compromised with a premature birth.
UWF – TellusPoint, $30,000 A location-based services company providing mobile and web-based solutions. Its first product, NextExitHistory, allows heritage organizations and professional content providers to upload historical video, audio and text information into a web services platform accessible to mobile consumers via the Web, smartphones and GPS devices. Currently available for iPhone and Android platform.
The remaining $10 million was designed to reward new or strengthened efforts in inter-university and intra-university collaboration. Candidly, we often find that the disciplines of a university become comfortable working in “silo” fashion as more and more demands are placed on them. Similarly, universities often don’t recognize that a higher leverage can be achieved by engaging the genius of multiple universities on, for instance, recruiting a global scholar for a research consortium that would serve several sites.
The elected officials and community leaders of Northwest Florida are no strangers to the need for being more competitive in job creation — they have spent untold hours dissecting economic underpinnings on which to pin visions, hopes and dreams for today’s and tomorrow’s families and businesses.
Why would the Board of Governors of the State University System put so much energy and attention into what may seem, at first glance, nominal funding projects?
I submit to you (and those who have read Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” know the answer well): We will continue to work hard to demonstrate to the Legislature that its investment in our 11 public universities is the right investment to leverage what I call the “javelin tip” of effecting a sea change in Florida’s economy.
Along with the Board of Governors of the System, I applaud the Legislature for taking on this important legacy issue. For with the New Florida Initiative, we can achieve a more durable portfolio less fragile to economic nuances. The only things that should truly remain “fragile” forever are the sands beneath our feet and the bountiful Northwest Florida ecosystem!