Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year, technology developed here in Minnesota is being used to improve lives all around the globe: from the convenience of a Post-it note to a lifesaving pacemaker.
We should always remember that Minnesota stands on the cutting edge of technology that is as good for us socially as it is economically. High-paying jobs, skilled and smart workers, and a culture of innovation are steppingstones to a more prosperous, global and connected community.
With this in mind, we must work together as a community — businesses, education and state government — in a united effort to guarantee that the necessary elements are present to expand our innovation ecosystem.
The first element needed to support the growth of science and technology industries is to ensure that we have the critical workforce to support the demand for high-tech jobs. To do this, we must continue to invest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.
The Minnesota High Tech Association works in partnership with many organizations on statewide STEM initiatives every day. These hand-in-hand partnerships illustrate not only the need for collaboration to achieve common visions, but they indicate that STEM education is a high priority in our state.
That is why the association created, with the state of Minnesota, an internship program to connect STEM students with small science and technology companies. The "SciTechsperience'' program has placed more than 130 students in the past two years and will help place at least another 225 this year. These internships provide students with on-the-job and entrepreneurial skills before they graduate from college.
The second element is to continue to offer smart, job-growing incentives to attract science and tech businesses and entrepreneurs to set up shop here. Minnesota's angel tax credit, a refundable 25 percent income tax credit, is a good example.
This tax credit provides real help to start-ups and emerging businesses through Minnesota-based investment. However, the $12.7 million in tax credits dried up and lasted only through July in 2012. With only $12 million allocated for the program in 2014, the credits may not last into the spring.
But perhaps the most important element is to celebrate our successes — to raise the visibility of our innovative companies not only within Minnesota, but around the country. We must throw aside our Minnesota modesty and hold up our successes for all to see.
That's exactly what we do at the annual Tekne Awards, a recognition of scientific and innovation presented by the Minnesota High Tech Association. More than 100 companies and organizations submitted applications in categories from education, health care, advanced manufacturing, and safety and security to collaboration, impact on industry and agricultural.
This year's Tekne Award finalists, announced last week, represent an applicant pool stronger and larger than in past years — from the Toro Company's new monitoring system that measures moisture in the soil, improving the precision of irrigation systems, to a computer gaming system from CogCubed, used to diagnose and treat cognitive disorders.
It is evident that Minnesota is on track to become one of the top-five technology states in the country. As I watched this year's winners receive their Tekne Awards, I was proud to celebrate their hard-earned achievements.
But we all must be thinking about the innovators of tomorrow — and making sure we are doing everything we can to guarantee we will be celebrating the global impact of Minnesota's technology and innovation for many years to come.