The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has launched a new Office of Science and Technology (OST) that will guide newer Minnesota companies to funding sources, collaborations and potential business partners.

"The Office of Science and Technology will play a key role in our economic development efforts in Minnesota," said DEED Commissioner Dan McElroy. "It will create an environment to help support science and technology commercialization in the state, opening a pipeline to funding for new and emerging firms."

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Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed the OST as part of his Strategic Entrepreneurial Economic Development (SEED) initiative, a comprehensive program to stimulate rural economic development.

Legislation creating the OST was passed and signed by Gov. Pawlenty earlier this year.

Officials hope the office will lead to the emergence of other high-tech and science clusters similar to the state's highly successful medical device sector.

Minnesota has 600 medical device companies and an emerging renewable energy industry that includes businesses related to wind power and ethanol production.

Specifically, the office will encourage partnerships between industry, academia and government that will lead to institutional research and development, as well as new programs by leveraging state and federal funding.

It will also link small- and medium-sized science and technology companies with larger firms to transfer and commercialize technology and help small or startup companies obtain federal grants through the Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program.

These federal programs provide high-risk capital for startup, early-stage and existing companies to commercialize technologies into new products and services.

"The goal of the OST is to create new, collaborative partnerships and drive technology development by leveraging funding opportunities," said Betsy Lulfs, the director of the new office. "We want to bring focus to science and technology initiatives that are commercially viable and create new jobs and economic growth in Minnesota ."

Some examples of Minnesota companies that have benefited from SBIR support are Architecture Technology Corp. (ATC) of Eden Prairie, Minnesota Wire and Cable Co. (MWCC) of St. Paul, and NVE Corp. of Eden Prairie.

They were among 55 companies nationwide that received Tibbetts Awards (a national SBIR award) last year for bringing technological innovations to the marketplace.