"Bucks for Brains and Business"
"Bucks for Brains and Business," Louisville Courier-Journal, Feb. 28, 2003
Amid the grim budget news coming out of Frankfort in the last two weeks there has been a bright note for Kentucky’s future: The General Assembly has approved full funding for a third round of Bucks for Brains.
Legislators should be commended for proposing bond funding for Bucks for Brains, formally called the Research Challenge Trust Fund, as was originally planned when the initiative was developed in 1998. That year, as well as in 2000, the state was able to pay for Bucks for Brains with end-of-the-year surplus funds. It’s perfectly appropriate to use the original bonding approach now that cash is in short supply.
Why is Bucks for Brains so important? When the Kentucky General assembly approved House Bill 1 in 1997 to reform its higher education system, legislators knew that the key to advancing the commonwealth was to invest in education at all levels, including higher education. They also knew that in order to jump-start economic development, they must make a strategic investment in university research that would translate into new dollars, new jobs and new opportunities for the state.
Bucks for Brains has done that and more.
Advancing Economic Progress
Bucks for Brains works because it matches state funds with private donations dollar for dollar, doubling the investment. In other words, the $230 million invested in the trust fund to date has turned into $460 million to support research initiatives critical to the future of the state.
These investments in turn attract additional investments from federal agencies and other organizations. At U of L, for example, federal commitments for research directly attributed to Bucks for Brains faculty are $53 million and growing. And every $1 million in federal funding for research generates an additional $2.2 million for the local and state economies.
Discoveries made through research translate directly into business development opportunities. At U of L, Bucks for Brains has led to research spinoff companies focusing on new treatments for cancerous tumors and lung cancer, among others.
In short, Bucks for Brains allows us to leverage state funds to attract private and federal funds, with the key assistance of Sen. Mitch McConnell and our federal delegation, in order to bring economic benefits to everyone in Kentucky.
Advancing Our Quality of Life
We’ve heard a lot about the ways Bucks for Brains researchers are improving health care for Kentucky citizens through their work on cardiac care and heart attack prevention, spinal cord repair, periodontal disease, treatment for sickle cell disease, liver disease and many other serious illnesses.
Bucks for Brains researchers are also finding new ways to help Kentucky’s children. At U of L, for example, researchers are focusing on early identification of learning disabilities as well as pediatric sleep disorders and diabetes.
U of L Bucks for Brains researchers also are helping Kentucky consumers and businesses by promoting entrepreneurship, improving effectiveness and efficiency in competitive markets, and developing cost-effective ways to get products to consumers through innovations in supply-chain management.
Clearly, by making it possible for Kentucky’s universities to attract and retain the nation’s top scholars and researchers, Bucks for Brains is raising the national academic profile of the state. These researchers also give students firsthand learning experiences from internationally recognized faculty, encouraging Kentucky’s brightest to stay in the state for an outstanding education.
This is just the beginning. The impact of Bucks for Brains on the University of Louisville and its service to its students, community and state is just one measure of the program’s success. Similar results can be found at U of L’s research partner, the University of Kentucky, and at the state’s other fine universities.
Together, we are achieving the high goals our legislators envisioned through House Bill1 and Bucks for Brains. The early results, while already dramatic, are just the beginning. The continued investment in Bucks for Brains and education at all levels is critically important to continue our progress enhancing Kentucky’s economic development, quality of life and educational strength.