Small Campus Initiative
In 2009, the University of Maine System created the Small Campus Initiative (SCI) to provide Maine Economic Improvement Funds to the five smaller campuses of the University of Maine System. Additional legislation was passed in 2011 which sets the amount of MEIF funds directed to SCI at up to 3% of the MEIF appropriation to the University of Maine System and in 2013 which now includes Maine Maritime Academy as an SCI eligible institution.
The key component of the statutory language passed by the Legislature was as follows:
- Invest in applied research and development in the target areas
- Support the development of private enterprise based on research and development performed in the University of Maine System and Maine Maritime Academy
The following goals were established for the program:
- generate measurable economic benefits for the state of Maine through financing high-impact innovation projects, with an emphasis on growing good quality technology jobs
- encourage stronger links among Maine’s research, development and commercialization organizations that will yield sustained gains in the future
- increase the level of economic activity in the state through nurturing technology development entities here in Maine, as well as attracting new activity from outside Maine
The FY2013 MEIF SCI was a competitive grant award program. SCI awards must be used to fund direct expenditures supporting research, development and commercialization projects that will lead to significant economic benefits in Maine. These expenses can include purchasing equipment or renovating facilities to make universities eligible or competitive for federal or private-sector funding. These projects must fall within the following seven technology sectors:
- Aquaculture and marine technology
- Composite materials technology
- Environmental technology
- Advanced technologies for forestry and agriculture
- Information technology
- Precision manufacturing technology
Research, Development and Commercialization
The MEIF Small Campus Initiative supports applied research, development and commercialization efforts in the seven above-mentioned technology sectors. As noted above, the projects must aim to move discoveries along the continuum, from research to development to commercialization, with the greatest emphasis on those projects that span more than one of these stages.
Small Campus Initiative Highlights
The FY13 SCI awards were focused in the easternmost county, Washington, and examined strategies for growing blue mussels, Mytlius edulis, at the Down East Institute Marine Field Station and in selected grow-out sites in Machiasport and Lubec with business partners, Cooke Aquaculture. The University of Maine Machias (UMM) determined the type of rope required for optimal settlement of mussel larvae and subsequent juvenile development/growth, as well as size of mussels to place in grow-out sites. In addition, in a partnership with A.C. Inc. (town of Beals) to develop a culture strategy for Arctic surf clams, Mactromeris polynyma. The goal was to determine conditions within the hatchery to encourage broodstock to spawn any time during the year, as well as conditions for rearing larvae and juveniles. Field grow-out studies conducted at two sites in Cutler and one in Beals were encouraging (animals 6-10 mm in shell length in April grew to 25-30 mm by early November if protected from predators, such as the invasive green crab, Carcinus maenas). The work leveraged a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, allowing continued collaboration with researchers at the University of Connecticut (Dr. Sandra Shumway, who will examine the potential for red tide uptake in surfclams), University of Maine (Dr. Chris Davis, how growth of cultured juveniles proceeds in Maine’s midcoast region), and University of Maine at Machias (Dr. Kevin Athearn, who will undertake an economic assessment of market potentials of blue mussels and surfclams with the two companies).
The University of Maine at Presque Isle Biology Department and Medical Laboratory Technician programs aimed to better prepare students for biotechnology careers in Maine with the funds provided by the FY13 MEIF-SCI. UMPI’s focus was on developing the skills of students from Aroostook County. A plant growth chamber and temperature loggers purchased with these funds were fundamental assets in a grant application submitted in December to the National Science Foundation Research Opportunity Award. The proposal requests support for Dr. Judith Roe and a student to collaborate with Dr. Johanna Schmitt’s laboratory at Brown University and University of California at Davis on a project describing the genetics of adaptation of Arabidopsis thaliana plants to their local environment. If funded, the Research Opportunity Award will provide $23,356, including a summer salary for an undergraduate student. Research-grade dissecting and fluorescent microscopes were purchased. These scopes have been utilized in training four undergraduate students in the laboratories of Dr. Scott Dobrin and Dr. Rachael Hannah. With an insect incubator (and other miscellaneous hardware) also purchased with MEIF funds, the students from both labs are gathering preliminary data to be used in future National Science Foundation grant proposals. The work has inspired collaborations between Dr. Dobrin and Dr. Pierre Butzloff of the Honey Bee Research Institute in St. David, Maine. Additionally, these items eased collaborative efforts between Dr. Hannah with Dr. Voot Yin at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, and permitted new collaborations between Dr. Hannah and the Presque Isle Regional Career and Technical Center (affiliated with Presque Isle High School) and between Dr. Hannah and Dr. Alicia Ebert at University of Vermont. The microscopes, along with a shaker plate, balance, pH meter, microtome blades and both previously identified incubators, will be used in a biotechnology course for upper-division biology students. This laboratory-based course (originally planned for spring 2014, but rescheduled for fall 2014 due to student conflicts) will provide hands-on experiences for students with modern biotechniques, making them more qualified future employees. Finally, several microscopes were upgraded for the medical laboratory technician students, including dual-headed, digital and basic compound microscopes. This year alone, 32 students in the MLT program utilized this equipment in their training.