Bush boosts excellence

Governor visits UF, plans to increase research spending

Gov. Jeb Bush, left, is presented with a putter by University of Florida President Bernie Machen as he arrived Friday to a news conference at the University of Florida's McKnight Brain Institute in Gainesville.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, January 10, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 10, 2004 at 12:24 a.m.
Gov. Jeb Bush on Friday announced plans to include $20 million in his upcoming budget to help take innovative research being conducted at the state's colleges and universities to the marketplace with top-notch facilities and world-class scientists.
Continuing a push by Bush to invigorate a high-tech economy, the announcement comes on the heels of a decision to spend $310 million to bring The Scripps Research Institute to Florida. Last fall, the world-renowned biotechnology research institute said it plans to build a facility in Palm Beach County.
Because UF is the state's leading research institution, it could reap benefits from both moves.
During a whirlwind trip to several spots across the state, Bush stopped at the University of Florida's McKnight Brain Institute to unveil his idea to allocate more money to the state's Centers of Excellence program.
State legislators gave $10 million to UF in 2002 to create the Center of Excellence for Regenerative Health Biotechnology. Two buildings are being renovated in Progress Corporate Park in the city of Alachua for a new bioprocessing facility and biotech training center.
Two other Centers of Excellence - one on photonics and the other marine biotechnology - were created at the University of Central Florida and Florida International University, respectively.
"The only way for our state in the long run to have high-wage jobs to be the norm rather than the exception is to combine the entrepreneurial spirit that truly exists in our state with the great research that is being done in a targeted and focused way where the state plays the role as the catalyst," Bush told about 100 educators, administrators and leaders gathered for the announcement.
While initial thoughts were that the money would be used to create two new centers, possibly handicapping UF, which already has one, Bush said the money would be open to new proposals as well as from the current centers through a competitive process.
Bush said the money will be dispersed based on the merits of the proposals.
UF typically ranks in the top 10 of research schools based on money generated from licensing technologies and patents. The university could end up doing fairly well, said UF President Bernie Machen, who started his job earlier this week.
"We like to compete on the basis of research," Machen said.
UF prepared several proposals for the last round in 2002, when the Legislature allocated $30 million for all three centers. Bush said he initially asked for $100 million.
Bush indicated that there may be other money over and above the $20 million available this year when the Legislature prepares its budget in a few months as new revenue estimates come in. That provides further hope that UF could be one of the beneficiaries either through a new program or an offshoot of the existing center.
"There was a glimmer of hope there will be more money," Machen said.
Janine Young Sikes can be reached at (352) 337-0327 or sikesj@gvillesun.com.

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