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Emerging tech group looks to streamline dollars in North Dakota

Former North Dakota Gov. Ed Schafer, seen Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service file photo

GRAND FORKS — A group of North Dakota leaders and businesspeople are looking at the best ways to streamline dollars for technology that will benefit the state for years to come.

The emerging technologies working group is headed up by former Gov. Ed Schafer and includes members of the university system, some legislators, members of the governor's office and various industry leaders. The group is looking at what type of emerging technologies the state should be investing in going forward.

The group is also trying to inventory everything the state is doing in terms of technology, whether it is with the university system, the governor's office, the Bank of North Dakota or any other department in the state.

"We kind of had this fractured idea about technology, which is important but we had a whole bunch of programs that were all doing their own thing," Schafer said.

The next step for the group is to choose a "handful" of technologies that will be important in the future for North Dakota, such as unmanned vehicles or unmanned systems. Schafer said unmanned technology can apply to many areas that are important to the state, including agriculture, energy and transportation.

Schafer noted that the emerging technologies group is not looking for new state funding, however. Instead, they are looking at ways to streamline "pockets of money" that are already out there so they are all going toward the same place.

"That's an effort to say, 'Let's use our public dollars more efficiently,'" Schafer said.

Schafer said there also needs be some sort of mechanism that would receive any incoming grants or other money that could be used for the outlined areas and then direct it to a university or department for further research. He said the mechanism could look like some sort of board or ad hoc committee, but no matter what, it's important to keep the effort going over time.

"We have to figure out a system that pulls the politics out of it and keeps the focus on the handful of targets that we're talking about trying to push forward to put in place 10 years from now," he said.

The working group is a part of the university system's Envision 2030 campaign which is looking at long-term goals of the university system over the next 15 years.

NDUS Chancellor Mark Hagerott said the university system has asked for a $10 million research pool to be awarded to new ventures in the latest NDUS budget. The State Board of Higher Education approved the university system's budget at the end of June.

"We realize that we need to infuse money now because we are in a race for patents and ideas," Hagerott said. "There's a race right now and either we're ready to help or we're not."

Sydney Mook

Sydney Mook has been covering higher education at the Grand Forks Herald since May 2018. She previously served as the multimedia editor and cops, courts and health reporter at the Dickinson Press from January 2016 to May 2018.  She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science in three and half years in December 2015. While at the USD, she worked for the campus newspaper, The Volante, as well as the television news show, Coyote News. She also interned at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and spent the summer before her senior year interning in Fort Knox for the ROTC Cadet Summer Training program. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys cheering on the New York Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, as well as playing golf. If you've got an idea for a video be sure to give her a call!

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