Officials from Iowa, Iowa State and U-N-I are hailing the state’s latest economic development program just as lawmakers consider its future. The “Values Fund” is a half a billion dollar program that invested 10-million in both I-S-U and Iowa, and five million in U-N-I. The University of Iowa’s interim vice president for research says it’s a welcome investment after a significant reduction in state support in the past few years. William Decker says the U-of-I is using that 10 million to attract companies that want to build on the university’s pharmaceutical and gene discoveries.Decker says in the past, big drug companies would pay the university licensing fees for a discovery, then develop the product elsewhere. At U-N-I, they’ve developed an “incubation center” which helps folks hatch their own companies by writing a business plan and tracking down investors. Randy Pilkington, U-N-I’s business and community services director, says the program’s only two years old but the response has been phenomenal. Pilkington says it’s working, as six of the first seven businesses to locate in the “incubator” were run by U-N-I graduates. He says that means the center is helping keep graduates and their ideas in the state, and he says the “Values Fund” financing is a major part of the success. Lawmakers, however, only approved two years worth of funding for the Values Fund and that money runs out next year without a plan for coming up with a new source of financing.
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