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Sen. Cortez Masto seeking funds for innovation research

A bipartisan endeavor is underway to secure federal funding for innovation research in Nevada and beyond.

The effort is being pushed by U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), who is joined by a number of House and Senate members to deliver federal research dollars to underserved states such as Nevada.

Cortez Masto and her colleagues are highlighting the importance of provisions in the Senate-passed U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), that set aside funding for states that have been historically disadvantaged when it comes to federal research funding, according to a news release from Masto’s office.

In a letter to congressional leadership, the senator noted that the bicameral Senate-approved legislation would devote 20 percent of its historic investment in research and development funding to the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), which serves the 28 states and territories that have not received their fair share of federal research funds.

“This would reduce the current disparity in funds and help underserved states and regions, as well as boost our nation’s competitiveness by ensuring all of our country can participate in cutting-edge research,” the release stated. “A companion bill in the House of Representatives does not include this set-aside for states like Nevada.

Strong bipartisan support

The release went on to say that the senator’s letter urges Congress to include the Senate EPSCoR provisions as the two chambers negotiate the final bill, which was signed by 34 senators and 26 members of the House of Representatives.

“Securing this important research funding for Nevada will open the door for more innovation and jobs throughout the Silver State,” said Cortez Masto. “This funding will boost our local economy and create more sustainable, good-paying jobs by supporting our universities and helping ensure Nevada remains an innovation hub. I will continue working to secure additional investments that boost Nevada’s small businesses and working families.”

Former Nevada governor’s opinion

Former Nevada governor and current University of Nevada President Brian Sandoval weighed in on the issue by noting that increasing investment in the research and education capacity of Nevada’s public universities through the EPSCoR program, the Innovation and Competition Act will have an essential role in building a more resilient economy in Nevada.

“The University of Nevada, Reno is very proud to have achieved the Carnegie classification for very high research activity, and support through the EPSCoR program,” he said “It aligns with our steadfast intent to maintain this classification, in service to Nevada. It also aligns with our mission as Nevada’s land-grant university to contribute to the health and economy of Nevada and the careers and futures of our students. The Senate’s action in support of this investment is appreciated.”

UNLV president speaks up

Meanwhile, University of Nevada Las Vegas President Keith Whitfield noted that UNLV is one of America’s leading research institutions.

“EPSCoR programs are vital to maintaining our research competitiveness and these programs fund eligible students majoring in mathematics, sciences, engineering, and K-12 STEM education,” he said. “We are particularly excited about the undergraduate research component National Science Foundation (NSF), EPSCoR awards provide for lab and field research experiences. Setting aside 20 percent of research funding for EPSCoR designated states will help UNLV continue research to further diversify the Nevada economy making us more resilient and resistant when future economic downturns occur.”

The group of lawmakers who joined Cortez Masto in the effort, noted that the United States Innovation and Competition Act, passed on a bipartisan basis by the Senate in June, to increase U.S. competitiveness in science and technology, including important provisions to remedy what they perceived as an imbalance by setting aside 20 percent of NSF and Department of Energy research funding for the 28 EPSCoR designated states and jurisdictions that are currently underserved by R&D funds.

“We strongly support this approach and believe that it is necessary to leverage every state and community in the nation to remain globally competitive,” the lawmakers wrote to House and Senate leadership.

Senator Cortez Masto leading legislation through her Innovation State Initiative to address challenges in Nevada and to make critical investments that will bring jobs to the region.

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes

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