At bluShift Aerospace, Governor Mills Promotes Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan’s Investment in Innovation to Spur Economic Growth

Brunswick, MAINE – During a visit to bluShift Aerospace in Brunswick today, Governor Janet Mills highlighted the importance of the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan’s investment in innovation to spur economic growth as Maine recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, Governor Mills is proposing to invest $80 million in federal funds for research and development (R&D), innovation, and public-private partnerships to generate new economic activity in Maine.

According to the Maine Development Foundation’s annual Measures of Growth report, R&D investment is an indicator of innovation in the economy and a key driver of economic growth. But currently R&D investment in Maine represents just 0.8 percent of the state’s total GDP, which ranks 46th of the 50 states, and is one-half of the estimated 1.6 percent average among states participating in the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

Increasing Maine’s R&D investment is also a leading recommendation of the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee and the State’s 10-year Economic Development Strategy to create long-term economic growth and prosperity in Maine.

“Investment in research and development is an investment in Maine people, their ideas, jobs and a stronger economic future,” said Governor Janet Mills. “With robust support for research and development, Maine can create and recruit innovative new companies that will offer good-paying jobs, attract and keep families here, and diversify and strengthen our economy. I want to put Maine on the map as a state that supports innovation and assist the entrepreneurs who make it possible.”

“Maine’s strengths position us well to innovate, and there are opportunities for innovation in every industry, across all sectors of Maine's economy,” said Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. “Promoting and investing in innovation is a key strategy in Maine’s Strategic Plan and this investment will help facilitate economic growth across all regions.”

The Governor’s call for further investment in R&D came during a visit to and tour of bluShift Aerospace. Located at Brunswick Landing, bluShift is developing a unique line of rockets that integrates multiple innovative technologies for the first time in one motor and that utilizes sustainably-farmed, bio-derived fuel that mitigates environmental impacts. This past January, bluShift made international headlines by successfully executing Maine’s first commercial rocket launch at the Loring Commerce Center in Limestone.

Governor Mills and bluShift staff at their company headquarters in Brunswick.

bluShift has won support from the Maine Technology Institute (MTI). Founded and funded in 1999 by the Maine Legislature, MTI offers grants, loans, equity investments, and services to support Maine’s innovation economy. MTI plays a key part in the State’s economic development strategy and is a significant driver in expanding research and development to create new innovative ventures. Since its founding, MTI has distributed $280 million via a variety of programs to nearly 2,950 projects throughout the State of Maine.

“State and Federal R&D funding has been vital to our company’s early growth, ultimately allowing us to conduct Maine's first commercial rocket launch,” said Sascha Deri, Founder & CEO of bluShift Aerospace. “We are proud to grow our company in Maine, and we’re extremely grateful for the support we’ve received to develop our ‘Made in Maine’ launch service powered by our non-toxic, bio-derived fuel.”

“Maine’s entrepreneurial, innovation-minded companies are well-positioned to lead Maine’s economic recovery post-COVID,” said Brian Whitney, MTI’s President. “With $80 million in competitive funding from the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, these tech-based ventures will inevitably help Maine regain its economic footing and position our state for sustained growth.”

The Governor’s proposed investment has also won the support of leading organizations that support innovation and entrepreneurship in Maine.

“We welcome the Governor’s proposed investment in Maine’s entrepreneurs and innovators,”said Margaret Angell, Head of Partnerships and Operations for the Roux Institute at Northeastern University. “It will catalyze partnerships across industry and higher education to strengthen Maine businesses and attract emerging companies.”

“This investment in Maine’s innovation economy comes at a crucial time, with an incredibly diverse cohort of employers poised to launch Maine’s economy into the stratosphere - both literally, and figuratively,” said Nate Wildes, Executive Director of Live + Work in Maine. “There are employers all across Maine many people would be surprised to hear about - and this investment will help ensure that one of our best kept secrets, our innovation economy, becomes one of our strongest assets in attracting and retaining talent.”

“Continued investment in Maine’s R&D sector is essential to our state’s economic future,” says Hermann Haller, M.D., President of the MDI Biological Laboratory. “The Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan will ensure research institutions like ours continue to attract and retain innovative scientists and students, develop new treatments for some of our most pressing health issues, and create the high quality, good paying jobs that are essential to meeting our future workforce needs.”

“State innovation funding was vital to opening the Union River Center for Innovation in rural, Downeast Maine,” said Janna Richards, Director of Union River Center for Innovation. “This funding, in combination with local support from the City of Ellsworth and the Ellsworth Business Development Center, has sustained the Center’s business incubator programming, which provides business coaching services, marketing, and the infrastructure necessary for life science and high-tech startups to scale up and graduate as sustainable businesses. These businesses diversify and contribute significantly to the local economy and advance the research and development ecosystem that is steadily growing in Maine.”

“The growth of GenoTyping Center of America was made possible with the early-stage funding from the Maine Technology Institution specific to R&D efforts,” said Michael Greene, CEO, Genotyping Center of America. “This crucial funding allowed us to commercialize our services and become who we are today, trusted partners to Life Sciences with a world-wide reach.”

The proposal builds on the Mills Administration’s current work to spur innovation as well. In April, Governor Mills announced the “Maine Clean Energy Innovation Challenge”, a $500,000 grant program spearheaded jointly by the Governor’s Energy Office and MTI to spark innovation, develop new companies, and create jobs in the state’s burgeoning clean energy economy.

Today was Governor Mills’ sixth stop across Maine to highlight the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, her proposal to dedicate more than $1 billion in discretionary Federal relief funds allocated to Maine under the American Rescue Plan Act.

The Governor last week visited Coffee By Design in Portland to highlight the plan’s initiative to help Maine small businesses afford the cost of health insurance for their employees. She has also visitedPenobscot Bay YMCA to highlight the plan’s investment in child care and early childhood education opportunities. She has also visited Maine Grains in Skowhegan to highlight the plan’s investment in farms and food processors and Foster Career and Technical Education Center in Farmington andCentral Maine Community College in Auburn to discuss investments in workforce training programs that will strengthen Maine’s economy.