As the 2021 Legislature deals with questions about how to allocate an unprecedented amount of one-time money, my priority is to use this opportunity to invest in things that will pay dividends in the future for South Dakota.
One of these is a request for $20 million to design, construct, and furnish the Dakota BioProducts Innovation Institute at the Research Park in Brookings. This would be a public-private partnership involving both SDSU and the School of Mines, working with private investors to find and develop new products from the crops and timber grown in South Dakota. The Institute would serve as the place to bring together the engineering and agronomic expertise of the two schools, the ingenuity of South Dakota students, and the vision of industry leaders to turn ideas into marketplace success stories.
We have already seen examples of how this could work. Innovative micro-filtration technology developed at the School of Mines enabled Nanopareil, Inc., to commercialize a nanofiber product for use in bio-pharmaceutical manufacturing. Prairie AquaTech, LLC, commercialized SDSU-licensed advanced microbial fermentation technology to convert soybean meal into a next-generation aquaculture feed protein. Today, this product is sold in six continents and over a dozen countries.
Those are just two examples of success stories that could come from the BioProducts Innovation Institute. According to an in-depth analysis of the potential in the bioeconomy, the long-run return on investment of research and development expenditures is at least 25%. The true benefit will be adding value to crops and timber, diversifying our economy, and creating high-paying jobs for South Dakotans.
The idea is supported by the Board of Regents and the presidents of the two universities, the state’s agricultural organizations, and private businesses who see the potential to create opportunities for South Dakota’s future.