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IGEM and University Research Come Together to Boost Economy

Wednesday, January 18 2012

MOSCOW, Idaho – It’s a tough economy out there. Unpredictable stock markets, fears of further recession and scarce job openings have made it imperative that Idaho do everything it can to keep business doors open and the economy growing.

University of Idaho President M. Duane Nellis joined with Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, Boise State University President Bob Kustra and Idaho State University President Art Vailis for a statewide, video news conference to talk about research and the governor’s breakthrough initiative – the Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission, or IGEM.

On behalf of Idaho’s businesses and workers, Otter has proposed $2 million in state funding for research projects that grow Idaho’s economy through public-private partnerships that yield economic results – projects like the one Ken Cain, associate professor of fisheries resources, is leading.

His work addresses a major issue faced by Idaho’s commercial trout industry. Although Idaho’s trout fisheries provide 75 percent of all the trout sold in supermarkets and restaurants across the United States, cold water disease cost Idaho’s fisheries nearly $10 million in 2010. This bacterial infection causes lesions in rainbow trout, steelhead and salmon that often lead to death. Many fish that survive CWD are permanently damaged and have little value on the market.

Through the collaboration of multiple departments, and with funding from several programs, Cain has hit on a breakthrough solution to CWD – a vaccine that can lead to $10 million in savings for Idaho annually.

IGEM would create working partnerships between the public and private sectors to build up the state’s knowledge-based economy. It’s designed to increase the research capacity of Idaho’s universities in strategic areas that can help Idaho’s competitiveness in the global marketplace.

“IGEM is a concept that perfectly fits the economics and character of Idaho,” said Nellis. “We are a state that charts its own way, we don’t wait for others to do it for us. We work together to find solutions to the challenges we face.”

Results like Cain’s CWD vaccine require top-notch facilities and world-class faculty. That’s why the IGEM initiative is so critical. In its report to both the National Science Foundation and the State Board of Education last year, the University of Idaho reported research expenditures totaling nearly $100 million, more than 70 percent of all university-level research expenditures generated by all Idaho higher education. Research expenditures bring new money – from competitive grants and contracts – into the state, fueling its economy.

Nellis has applauded the governor’s proposal to reinvest in higher education for the benefit of the state, and has reinforced what the governor noted in his State of the State address: jobs and education, the governor’s two top priorities, are inseparable.
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About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. Learn more: www.uidaho.edu.