O'Malley signs Innovate Maryland, tax credit bills

By Nick Sohr, Managing Editor, MDBIZNews

Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law on Tuesday a program to support the commercialization of discoveries made in university labs in Maryland and two other bills that will strengthen a pair of the state’s business tax credits.

The legislation was approved by the General Assembly during its regular session that concluded in April.

Tech transfer and capitalizing on the research conducted in Maryland have long been a focus for the state and the Department of Business and Economic Development.

“To create jobs, a modern economy requires modern investments: investments by all of us, for all of us,” O’Malley said. “Today, we’re signing legislation that will create jobs, invest in innovation and protect our shared priorities.”

The Innovate Maryland program will pool $5 million from the state and funding from Johns Hopkins University; Morgan State University; University of Maryland, Baltimore; University of Maryland, Baltimore County and University of Maryland, College Park to help spin businesses out of university labs.

The schools will each contribute up to $200,000 to the effort to help researchers take their ideas to market. The funding can be used to evaluate and develop start-ups and to assess intellectual property issues.

The program’s goal is to commercialize 40 discoveries every year through the partnership between the state and its research universities.

“This landmark legislation moves technologies developed in our world-class research institutions from innovation to commercialization to company formation to job creation,” said DBED Secretary Christian S. Johansson. “Innovate Maryland helps fuel the jobs and companies of tomorrow and create an economic climate where the most promising ideas and innovations have a chance to mature.”

(O’Malley visited the Emerging Technology Center in East Baltimore last month to promote Innovate Maryland.)

Innovate Maryland builds on last year’s InvestMaryland legislation, and both programs reinforce the funding pipeline that brings ideas from lab tables to consumers.

InvestMaryland stocked the state’s Maryland Venture Fund with the proceeds of a tax credit auction for insurance companies.

The auction in March raised $84 million, well above the floor of $70 million. Two-thirds of the money will be invested in young, high-tech companies by private venture firms, with 100 percent of the principal and 80 percent of the profit returned to the state after successful investments.

The Maryland Venture Fund will dole out about one-third of the money.

O’Malley also signed an extension of the Job Creation Tax Credit on Tuesday. That credit encourages businesses to move to and expand in Maryland by rewarding them with tax credits for creating new jobs.

The extension moves the expiration date from 2014 to 2020. The credits range from $1,000 to $1,500 per job, depending on the company’s location.

The governor also inked legislation that expands the eligibility requirements for jurisdictions under the One Maryland Economic Development Tax Credit program.

Businesses that invest in projects in qualified distressed counties may qualify tax credits worth up to $5.5 million.

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