An Overview of State Science and Technology Strategic Planning
State Science and Technology Institute
This Issue Brief 1) presents an overview of states' science and technology strategic plans and the process by which they were developed; 2) examines the extent to which the plans explicitly address the needs of distressed areas: and, 3) describes science and technology strategic planning activities in Maryland, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Vermont.
Summary of Findings
States often adopt strategic plans to guide their economic development investments. Comprehensive economic development plans include recommendations for expanding trade, meeting workforce needs, building transportation and infrastructure, and creating regulatory and taxing policies that support economic growth. Increasingly, state economic development strategies include recommendations for improving the state research and development base and supporting technology-based companies. In some cases, technology is viewed as such an important contributor to economic growth that a strategic plan is developed which focuses solely on science and technology issues.
The U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration funded the State Science and Technology Institute to identify best practices in state science and technology strategic planning, with a specific focus on how states are using their science and technology resources to benefit distressed areas. The project was undertaken to investigate the extent to which the states consider the potential impact their technology-based development plans will have on all geographical areas of the state.
The initial tasks of the project were to identify states that had undertaken a strategic planning process between 1991 and 1995, to identify the plans that focused specifically on science and technology, to determine the extent to which the plans explicitly addressed the needs of distressed areas, and to prepare an overview of state science and technology planning. This Issue Brief summarizes the project's findings to date. Additional tasks to be conducted include developing recommendations on the role that state science and technology initiatives can play in revitalizing distressed urban and rural areas and analyzing the factors that lead to the development of effective state science and technology strategic plans. The final report will highlight the strategies that address the needs of distressed areas.
This Issue Brief presents:
The Status of State Science and Technology Strategic Planning
States undertake strategic planning processes for a number of reasons. State development policies often are initiated in response to a crisis. Economic restructuring, a recession, or downsizing within a key industry such as defense, can cause a state to examine its economy and develop policies to promote future economic growth. The election of a new Governor or new legislative leadership can provide an opportunity to examine and evaluate existing state policies and programs. In a handful of states, strategic planning is an ongoing process with plans updated every five years or so.
Twenty-nine states adopted economic development strategies between 1991 and 1995. Thirteen states adopted dedicated science and technology strategic plans during this same time. Seven of these thirteen states prepared both a general economic development strategy and a science and technology strategic plan. Two statesAlaska and Connecticutconducted an analysis of the state's technology base as a first step in developing a technology strategy, and Kansas conducted such an analysis as a first step in revising its technology strategy. New Jersey developed vision 2020 to initiate the state's science and technology strategic planning effort.
Economic Development Strategic Plans
Some of the economic development strategic plans addressed the science and technology base in the state or the needs of particular technology-based industries, but the recommendations were usually general. This is not surprising, given the broad range of public investments and policy that must be taken into account in developing an economic development strategy. In addition to technology, the plans addressed tax and regulatory policy, transportation, infrastructure, education, natural resources, and environmental issues. Several of the strategies, including Arizona's, South Carolina's, Vermont's, and Virginia's, called for the development of state science and technology strategic plans. Both Arizona's and North Dakota's economic development plans addressed technology issues.
Science and Technology Strategic Plans
The overriding goal of the thirteen science and technology strategic plans developed by the states between 1991 and 1995 was to create high-wage jobs in technology-based businesses in order to increase per capita income and improve citizens' standard of living. Strategies used to achieve this broad-based goal of state-wide economic growth included:
Addressing the Needs of Distressed Areas
The strategic plans reviewed by SSTI did not explicitly address the needs of distressed communities or areas, with a few exceptions. This was true of both the science and technology strategies and the overall economic development strategies. Even in economic development strategies that included a goal of promoting development of distressed areas, it often was not clear which initiatives would be dedicated to those areas in particular. Furthermore, to the extent that actions were identified, they seldom focused on technology. Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and South Carolina's strategies included a focus on distressed areas.
Like the general economic development strategies, the science and technology plans did not discuss whether the state's science and technology activities would benefit distressed areas of the state. The strategies, by and large, were not targeted geographically or by population although several included recommendations for supporting technology-based development in rural areas. Most of these initiatives focused on linking rural areas to sources of technology and technical expertise by the use of advanced telecommunication.
In some instances, while the strategy did not specifically mention distressed areas, it is expected to positively impact such areas. Vermont, for example, is predominantly rural and lacks many of the resources needed to support economic development. Successful implementation of the state's science and technology policy is expected to increase the number of high-skill, high-wage jobs in the state. While initial activities focused on the University of Vermont, the state's only research institution, it is expected that spin-off companies will be located throughout the state.
To the extent that the science and technology strategies were targeted, they were usually targeted by industry or technology area. Arizona, California, Connecticut, Kansas, and South Carolina, among others, identified proposed activities to meet the needs of industry clusters.
Science and Technology Strategic Planning Processes
States varied in who initiated the strategic planning process, how the process was carried out, the amount of data collected and subsequent analysis performed, who was responsible for developing and implementing the strategy, and the extent to which the strategy contained outcome measures. In some states, the planning process took as long as two years. In others, a strategy was completed in a matter of months.
Initiating the Process
The strategic planning process has been initiated by state government as well as the private sector. In seven states, the science and technology strategic planing process was initiated at the requested of the Governor. For example, the Vermont Science and Technology Plan was prepared by the Vermont Technology Council in accordance with a Governor's Executive Order. In two states, Iowa and Maine, the strategic planning process was developed at the request of the legislature.
Strategies also were initiated by the agencies responsible for administering the state's science and technology programs. Colorado's technology transfer plan was initiated by the Colorado Advanced Technology Institute (CATI), Maryland's strategy was initiated by the Department of Economic and Employment Development, and Kansas' plan was developed by the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation. The Louisiana Department of Economic Development is required by legislation to produce a five-year strategic plan and annual operating plans. The Science and Technology Program Strategic Plan is a distinct part of the overall departmental plan.
In some cases, private sector organizations or business leaders spearheaded the strategic planning process. Connecticut Connects: An Assessment of the Economic Challenges for the State's Future was prepared by the Connecticut Economic Conference Board. The Board was established by statute in 1991 to provide economic advice to the Governor and state legislature and to hold regular conferences on the state's economy. The members of the board are appointed by the Governor and legislature.
Organizing for Action
Strategies can be developed by an existing organization, or state agency or a strategic planning committee can be appointed. In eight states the strategy was developed by the state's science and technology agency. In five states, the strategy was developed by a public-private council set up for the explicit purpose of developing a strategy. For example:
Analyzing the Economy
The first step in developing a strategic plan usually is to conduct a baseline assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the state's economy and the state's research infrastructure. Most strategies included some analysis of key economic, demographic, labor, and industrial issues, although the extent of the analysis varied greatly. Some states also included a review of major global issues likely to impact future growth of the state's economy. California's strategy, while it is an overall economic development strategy rather than a science and technology strategy, provides a good example of the type of analysis needed to support the planning process.
The clusters were examined in regard to the:
Based on its analysis, the Panel concluded that California was growing a new economic base which was substantially different from the economic base of its past. The strategy proposed public policies designed to meet the competitive requirements of the knowledge-based industries which were emerging.
In addition to analyzing trends in the economy, states used a variety of mechanisms to obtain input for the strategic plan, including surveys, focus groups, interviews, and public hearings. Both Colorado and North Carolina used multiple techniques to reach a broad cross-section of citizens.
The strategies varied greatly in the level of detail on implementation. Some of the plans included recommendations for action but did not identify a party responsible for acting on the recommendations, a timeline for implementation, or any measures to plot progress on achieving the goals and objectives of the strategy. In some cases, an action plan was developed after the strategy had been adopted. For example, The Montana Science and Technology Policy Plan was released by the Montana Science and Technology Advisory council in 1991. A year later, the Council completed The Montana Science and Technology Action Agenda which included key actions, identified responsible parties, and established an implementation timeline.
Of the thirteen strategies examined, eight included an implementation plan, although they varied greatly in level of detail and specificity. Only three plans (Maine, Maryland, and North Carolina) included specific outcome measures. The outcome measures varied in level of specificity. Some plans identified data to be tracked (e.g., growth rate of technology-related businesses, new companies started, or industry support for universities' research and development). Others set quantitative goals, such as increasing the percentage of high-technology firms in the state by 50 percent and increasing employment in technology industries by 30 percent. Louisiana's strategy contained measurable objectives, such as executing at least 125 technology transfer agreements between the federal government and Louisiana private sector companies annually.
Determining the extent to which the recommendations in strategies developed several years ago have been implemented is difficult because many states established no mechanism for tracking implementation, and staff turnover has resulted in little institutional memory. For example, in three of the states that adopted strategies in 1992 and 1993 (Iowa, Maryland, and Montana), changes in administrations and the state's science and technology leadership made it difficult to determine how effectively the strategy was implemented, if at all. While the strategies may have influenced the state's investment in science and technology, those most involved in developing and implementing the strategy are no longer with state government.
For the strategies adopted in 1995, it is still too early to assess implementation even though the strategy may assign responsibility for monitoring implementation.
This initial review of state science and technology strategic planning found that:
In order to explore how states can promote technology-based development in distressed areas, the Institute and the National Governors' Association held a roundtable that brought together state and federal science and technology policymakers, economic development practitioners, and local officials to develop recommendations regarding the role state science and technology initiatives can play in revitalizing distressed urban and rural areas.
To gain greater understanding of the factors that lead to successful implementation of state science and technology strategic plans, the Institute will conduct in-depth interviews with practitioners and policymakers in six states. The data collected from the interviews, as well as the findings and recommendations from the roundtable, will be included in a final report.
Reprinted with permission from the report An Overview of State Science and Technology Strategic Planning, pp. 211, August 1997, Columbus, Ohio. This report was prepared under an award (Proj #99-07-13788) from the Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, and conclusions are those of the Institute and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Development Administration.