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Friday, January 28, 2011 - 12:07pm

Research Alliance Funding Cut by 75% in Proposed Budget

The Georgia Research Alliance is supposed to turn science-lab ideas into real-world companies, but it might have a lot less money to do that next year.

Governor Nathan Deal’s proposed budget gives GRA $4.5 million, well below the nearly $17 million it was allocated this year.

GRA will not be “able to recruit the scientists and give them the tools that they need to create the initial technology that those companies grow from,” said Kathleen Robichaud, the alliance’s director of communications.

GRA partners with Georgia’s research universities to attract top scientists. It gives them high-tech tools and lab equipment and works to turn their ideas into high-tech companies.

For example, GRA provided seed money to a company that created a new type of orthopedic implant that heals faster. The idea for the implant came from work in a lab at Georgia Tech.

Robichaud said the alliance has created more than 150 companies and 5,500 jobs since it’s creation 20 years ago.

“When you devote state dollars to a program like this, those can be leveraged from private sources and from federal government monies,” said Bill Lingenfelt, area president for Regions Bank and chairman of the GRA board. “Historical leverage has been 5 to 1, so you put a dollar in, you get five back.

“That money is going to go somewhere. If it doesn’t come to Georgia, it’s going to go to Florida or North Carolina or Texas or Massachusetts or someplace else,” he said.

Lingenfelter said the governor’s office has not given any indication why the GRA was cut by 75 percent. He said they will continue to develop research and go after top talent, but that the work will not be sustainable with the reduced funding.

GRA's partner universities are Clark Atlanta University, Emory University, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, Medical College of Georgia, and the University of Georgia.