r&d

Colorado’s R&D economy: Who’s funding innovation and where is it happening?

With its educated and entrepreneurial workforce, Colorado is primed for research and development dollars.

And, it’s getting them. The state ranks second in the nation on the Milken Institute’s 2018 State Technology and Science Index, a report that ranks states based on “their science and technology capabilities and broader commercialization ecosystems that contribute to firm expansion, high-skills job creation, and broad economic growth.” In addition to ranking second overall, Colorado has ranked third on the R&D inputs for the last eight years.

Colorado is a hub for innovation for a myriad of reasons, including but not limited to the State’s support of small businesses in advanced industries, a concentration of aerospace activities, and federally funded national research centers.

Federal Funding at National Labs and Research Centers

According to the World Bank, the United States spent 2.74 percent of its GDP on R&D in 2016. Colorado ranked ninth nationally for federal obligations for research and development for the 11 agencies (including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, the Interior, and Transportation; the Environmental Protection Agency; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; and the National Science Foundation) that represent over 98% of total federal R&D obligations in FY 2016 at just over $4 billion dollars.

Colorado has 33 federally funded laboratories making it a national center for research and innovation, including major federal labs and research centers like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the  Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES). These federally funded laboratories had an economic impact of $2.6 billion in 2015.

State Incentives for Small Businesses

What’s more, enterprise zones are designated areas in which businesses conducting research and development can receive a state tax credit. (Interested? Contact the South Metro Enterprise Zone Administrator.)

The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade also offers a variety of tax benefit programs to encourage R&D in advanced industries, including the Advanced Industries Early-Stage Capital and Retention Grant, the Advanced Industries Colorado-Israel R&D Grant, and Advanced Industry Tax Credit.

These programs are designed to encourage start-ups to choose Colorado and to help them thrive as they develop new technologies.

Our State Research Universities

According to the National Science Foundation’s rankings of total R&D expenditures at universities across the country, the University of Colorado spent $499,389 in 2017 on R&D, ranking 48th nationally. Closer to Denver South, the CU branches in Denver as well as the Anschutz Campus spent $480,598, ranking 50th nationally of 901 universities.

While they don’t place first, they still represent a significant level of funds devoted to R&D.

And Working on Space

Aerospace is a field that is constantly evolving, and Colorado has the second-largest aerospace economy in the country.

Home to 180 aerospace companies, Colorado hosted the first annual Innovation and Opportunity Conference, Advancing Aerospace and Defense, in November 2018. The event brought together NASA experts, small businesses, startups, research institutions and large businesses/prime contractors to discuss the future of aerospace and defense.

It’s this spirit of collaboration not just in aerospace, but across industries, that makes the research work as part of an innovation pipeline to new things.

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