Klobuchar calls for increased funding for research at University

Sen. Klobuchar toured University facilities on Thursday with school officials and business leaders.

Senator Amy Klobuchar visits the University of Minnesota Nanofabrication Center Thursday in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building.  Senator Klobuchar's visit highlighted the partnerships between University researchers and Minnesota companies.

Mark Vancleave

Senator Amy Klobuchar visits the University of Minnesota Nanofabrication Center Thursday in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building. Senator Klobuchar’s visit highlighted the partnerships between University researchers and Minnesota companies.

James Nord

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar gazed at masked University of Minnesota researchers in full body suits working in a sterile lab. The sealed room, part of the University of Minnesota’s Nanofabrication center, contains research on topics like solar energy, medical devices and sensors. 

As she looked on, Director Stephen Campbell outlined the different uses of the labs and the University’s need to upgrade some of the outdated equipment. A certain scientific mystique permeates the area.  The snowy white researchers looked serious going about their work, manipulating complex and seemingly-secret machinery. 

As she was getting her picture taken, the feeling even prompted Klobuchar to ask, “Is China going to copy this?  I don’t want to create an international piracy scandal.”

The topic punctuated certain portions of Klobuchar’s Thursday visit to the University.  She came to speak with administrators and members of the private sector about the America COMPETES Act of 2007, which she co-sponsored.  The legislation, meant to lend federal support for research and development in science related fields, is up for reauthorization this session. Klobuchar, meanwhile, solicited suggestions from members of the private sector and University administrators about the content of the new bill.

University Vice President for Research Tim Mulcahy weighed in on the federal grant process and the necessity for a small company to be able to use research money in critical periods during product development.

Klobuchar also expressed concern about the competitive scientific standing of the United States internationally, specifically noting China and India. The thousands of beating Fou drums at the beginning of the 2008 Beijing Olympics served to instill a sense of urgency in Klobuchar to stop the United State’s perceived declines in scientific research compared to other countries, she said.

“Those drum beats are getting louder and louder and louder,” Klobuchar said.

John Myers, the Vice President of Development for Eden Prairie-based NVE Corportation, took the opportunity to discuss some of the nanotechnology products his company has developed, as well as the University’s integral role in their production.

His story described a scenario discussed by the group at some length: the transition of research from the private labs of big business to universities and small startup companies.

 “The University has always been a leader,” Klobuchar said.