Maine’s Knowledge Economy

Starting in 2017, Innovation Policyworks began preparing an annual report, Maine’s Knowledge Economy, to demonstrate the progress that Maine has made in transforming its economy.

In 1996, Maine started to invest in its research and development in order to diversify its economy. After years of disinvestment in the University of Maine, the state decided to start developing research and development capabilities in targeted sectors.

In 1999, the state added the Maine Technology Institute and the Applied Technology Development Centers, programs designed to support early stage technology companies. These programs, in addition to the Small Enterprise Growth Fund (now Maine Venture Fund), and occasional R&D bond funding for research and development infrastructure, have been the backbone of Maine’s strategy since then. One major addition was the Maine Technology Asset Fund, started in 2008, which changed the allocation of R&D bonds from a formula to a competitive basis.

Annual evaluations of Maine’s public investments in R&D have been conducted since 2001; the average return to the state’s economy has been 12:1 on the state’s investment, measured by job growth and investment in individual companies and research institutions. Several course corrections were indicated by these evaluations, notably the competitive allocation of R&D bonds funds.