EPSCoR Funding Drives Kentucky's New Knowledge-based Economy

From: May 16, 2014 | kbowman

Kentucky’s “Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research,” known as Kentucky EPSCoR, is providing the tools, discoveries and workforce required for the state to successfully transition from its past dependence on mining and mineral industries to a vibrant, knowledge-based economy—one that can thrive at a national and global level.

Kentucky has traditionally focused on mining and agriculture to drive its economy. Thousands of jobs in the Eastern Kentucky coalfields have been shed in the face of increased mechanization and alternative and more easily extracted fuel sources. The mining regions of Eastern and Western Kentucky are even further behind in their ability to compete for high-tech companies due to a lack of workforce and R&D infrastructure. At the same time, even though a greater number of young Kentuckians than the national average are interested in science, technology, engineering & math—so-called STEM careers—the state is likely to struggle to produce such professionals, who are necessary to meet the needs of existing and new industries. 

Kentucky NSF EPSCoR is making concentrated investments in people and infrastructure to produce innovations and provide the tools and opportunities to develop a new knowledge-based economy. For example, the new EPSCoR-driven BioEconomy initiative, focused on traditional mining regions of the state, is making investments that capitalize on the existing strengths and natural resources, while building the necessary infrastructure to support the high-tech jobs that will result. 

Kentucky NSF EPSCoR has shown a clear return on its investment. Since EPSCoR’s inception, Kentucky has increased from 40 percent below the national average for high-tech start-ups to more than 20 percent above the national average. Fayette County, Kentucky, is now ranked among the Top 25 high-tech hotspots in America. And the new BioEconomy initiative has already developed technologies to produce alternative energy resources and high-value chemicals in support of the Kentucky forestry industry. 

These innovations are helping the region's previously mined lands recover and regain their productivity. New medicines, high-value chemicals, and green technologies developed from EPSCoR investments will attract new companies, expand existing industry, and provide STEM careers. With continued support, EPSCoR can build on its success in a region of the country that is increasingly the focus of state and national efforts to stimulate three things that are inextricably linked—economic progress, educational attainment, and better health outcomes. Kentucky NSF EPSCoR's investment is paying dividends in ways that can and will positively shape the state's economic future.

For more, visit http://www.kynsfepscor.org

Produced by Alicia P. Gregory, videography/direction by Chad Rumford (Research Communications)

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