In 2023, the Maine Innovation Economy Advisory Board (MIEAB) released a five-year action plan for building a stronger, more resilient state economy that supports opportunity for all Maine people and sustains our quality of life and natural resources. First among its five goals was for Maine to “transformationally increase” its research and development (R&D) spending to 3% of the state’s gross domestic product (GDP).

MIEAB’s recommendation that Maine triple its overall R&D investment echoes those from the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and also the Maine Economic Growth Council, which noted in its 2023 Measures of Growth report that the state spends just 1.1% of GDP on R&D compared to the 3.3% national average and 5.4% in New England.

These consistent calls to increase investment are in recognition of the uniquely important role R&D plays in driving economic growth and competitiveness. Data show investments in innovation increase income, productivity, and the value of goods and services — all essential to Maine’s 10-year economic strategy.

The state’s R&D ecosystem is more vibrant than ever, with private, nonprofit and public (including higher education) entities contributing, collaborating and commercializing in exciting new ways that are good for Maine and its place in the global economy.
Still, no institution has greater reach, resources and relationships — and thus impact — across all sectors than the University of Maine System.

Led by the University of Maine, which recently achieved R1 Carnegie Classification for “very high” research activity, UMS leverages public investment in its statewide R&D through the Maine Economic Improvement Fund (MEIF) for a 6:1 rate of return for Maine.

Consistent with our System’s new strategic plan — the first in nearly two decades — MEIF enables our public universities to prepare the state’s knowledge and technical workforce through meaningful, paid hands-on undergraduate and graduate student research learning experiences. And thanks to human and physical infrastructure undergirded by MEIF, our System helps spur and strengthen hundreds of small businesses each year, including through the development of new products and processes.

We are pleased to spotlight some of these innovative Maine startups and university spinoffs in this report, including Marin Skincare and TimberHP. Both companies are solving serious supplier and consumer problems by repurposing waste from our state’s heritage industries into a sustainable, value-added Maine-made product for which there is strong demand. Their success stories, and the high-paying Maine jobs they are supporting as they scale-up, would not have been possible without UMaine R&D enabled by MEIF.

When Maine’s economy grows and grows more quickly because of innovation, we all benefit. And public university R&D made possible by public investment also has a positive impact directly on Mainers’ daily lives too. From the composite arch bridge you drove over on the way to work today to the hearty Caribou Russet potato on your dinner plate to the lobster glycoprotein-derived lotion you use on your hands to ward off a Maine winter’s dryness, UMS innovation is improving your life, and our state’s economic future.

Thank you for your support,

Dannel Malloy
Chancellor, University of Maine System

Joan Ferrini-Mundy
Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation, University of Maine System President, University of Maine and University of Maine at Machias