Abbott Proposes Diverting Tech Money to Universities

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, BBA ’81, Life Member, is looking to replace a tech startup fund with one that would support university recruitment.

On Thursday, Abbott’s office released a proposal to eliminate the Emerging Technologies Fund (ETF), which was started by former Gov. Rick Perry in 2005. The fund awards money to tech startups and was criticized by by the State Auditor’s Office in a 2011 report for lacking transparency and accountability. According to the report, Perry’s office did not make public how recipients were chosen and conducted only limited monitoring of how the money was spent.

Abbott’s plan recommends splitting the leftover money from the ETF and awarding 50 percent to two other initiatives: The Governor’s University Research Initiative, which would help public universities recruit prestigious faculty, and the Texas Enterprise Fund. Another program that was established under Perry, the Texas Enterprise Fund provides incentives for out-of-state businesses to relocate to Texas.

“My plan will enhance Texas’ ability to recruit nationally-recognized researchers, promote economic development, and serve as a significant step toward ensuring Texas is home to five of the top ten public universities in the nation,” Abbott said in a statement. According to the release, any state university would be eligible to seek matching funds on a dollar-for-dollar basis from the initiative.

The plan, which would need to be approved in the Texas Legislature, would award public universities funds to help recruit Nobel Laureates and members of the National Academy of Sciences. The program would likely be administered by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

UT spokesman Gary Susswein was cautiously optimistic about what the news could mean for UT-Austin.

“As with all legislation, we’re still researching this, but it seems like a very positive development,” Susswein said. “One of the keys to being a world-class university is having the best scholars, teachers, and researchers here. To have the ability to attract the top scholars and researchers to Texas would be great.”

Photo by Callie Richmond / the Texas Tribune.

 

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