Review of Maine’s Targeted Technology Sectors Underway: Your feedback is encouraged in November via Public Forums and a Survey

October 31, 2023 | President’s blog

Brian Whitney MTI President

To start this month’s blog, I just want to note that the entire MTI team is deeply saddened by the devastating events that occurred in Lewiston last week.  Our heartfelt thoughts go out to all those who lost friends or loved ones during the shocking tragedy.  Clearly, the healing and grieving process will take a great deal of time, but we know well that Mainers from every corner of the state will come together to support and comfort one another in the challenging days ahead.

As you may recall from my blog in May, the Legislature passed a Resolution (LD 1318) asking MTI to examine the state’s seven targeted technology sectors to assess their continued relevancy.  As most of you know, the state’s seven targeted technology sectors include:  biotechnology; composites and advanced materials; environmental technology; forestry and agricultural technology; information technology; marine and aquaculture; and precision manufacturing.  Since its creation in 1999, MTI’s mandate has been to support and stimulate innovative projects that are engaged in those sectors and that lead to meaningful economic impact in our state.

Given that more than 20 years have passed since the designation of the targeted technology sectors, it is appropriate to review how Maine’s tech sectors and clusters are performing to ensure we are capitalizing on our assets and opportunities to grow a more robust technology-based economy.

This summer, MTI engaged with Camoin Associates, an economic development consulting firm, to assess the existing industry sectors by analyzing past, present, and projected trends. Camoin completed a report on the current sectors, found here, that we will use as a baseline assessment for the larger evaluation of the sectors.

Of course, public input is an essential part of the process so MTI and Camoin will conduct a handful of public forums in November to solicit feedback from all interested parties, stakeholders, partners, entrepreneurs, and technologists.  Each virtual forum will be approximately two hours in duration and will include an introduction to the work and process, an overview of the clusters, digital engagement activity, and opportunity for public input.  The forums are scheduled for the following dates and times:

  • Monday, November 13, 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM
  • Tuesday, November 14, 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
  • Wednesday, November 15, 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM
  • Thursday, November 16, 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM

To register and participate in one of the forums, please use the following link to sign up.  Once you sign up, you will receive a follow-up email with background materials and a link to join the meeting on the specified date.

MTI and Camoin will also use a survey tool to gather feedback from all those interested in providing it.  You can access the brief survey tool here.

There is also a nice body of literature that has been assembled over the past decade regarding the emerging industry clusters and sectors that highlight opportunities for Maine to grow and diversify its economy.  For example, in 2014, MTI commissioned a comprehensive study by Battelle to assess the tech sectors and clusters in the state.  That report highlighted eight high-performing tech clusters in Maine: biopharmaceuticals; finance and business support services; agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries and food production; alternative energy and turbines; boatbuilding and related industries; engineering and scientific/technical services; environmental services; and forestry-related products.

In 2015, FocusMaine hired a global consulting company to conduct an in-depth analysis of global trends and market opportunities in Maine and determined agriculture, aquaculture, and biopharmaceuticals were our state’s globally competitive and high-growth areas of opportunity.

In 2019, the state released its 10-year economic development strategy and that report recommended that we capitalize on the growth of clean, renewable energy sources; sustainable aquaculture, fishing and farming to meet the growing demand for a traceable food supply; and continued growth of bio-based alternative products that emerge from the intersection of wood supply, bioplastic, and advanced building material technologies.

In 2020, the state also issued its four-year climate action plan, Maine Won’t Wait.  That report talks about Maine’s natural resource-based economic advantages and notes that Maine ought to focus on R&D in climate-friendly bio-based wood-market innovation; and research around climate-friendly agricultural practices.

And, recently, the Maine Innovation Economy Advisory Board presented its five-year Innovation Action Plan.  That plan highlights the following high-growth target sectors as opportunities and strengths for Maine: aerospace; artificial intelligence; bio-based alternatives like advanced building products, algae and algal products, bio-manufacturing, biochemicals; human health including biomedical research and healthy aging; and renewable energy.

So, all those reports will be reviewed as part of the process, along with other relevant literature and data, to help us compile our findings and develop recommendations for any changes that ought to be considered to further highlight Maine’s advantages and emerging opportunities.

We look forward to working with all of you and receiving your input over the next month so we can complete the draft findings and recommendations by mid-December.

 Happy Halloween!