Skip to content

Another View -- Jeanne Shaheen and Mark Huddleston: Trump's budget would threaten innovation in NH

By: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen & Mark Huddleston

Union Leader

Federally funded research is a big reason why the US leads the world in technology, medicine, and other fields - creating millions of jobs and entirely new industries. Here in the Granite State, federally funded research has given birth to cutting-edge companies, addressed threats to key sectors of our economy and saved lives with new cures. We are deeply concerned by President Trump's 2018 budget released Tuesday that significantly cuts federally funded research, threatening our state's vitality.

New Hampshire's 21st century economy - increasingly driven by technology, advanced manufacturing, and health care - is hard to imagine without the help of robust federal investments in research. In 2015, Granite State colleges and universities received more than $241 million in federal research and development funding. Last year, grants included nearly $99 million from the National Institutes of Health, $47 million from the National Science Foundation and $8.5 million from USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

At the University of New Hampshire, federal research dollars make it possible for students and faculty to study and protect wildlife species critical to our state's economy. In partnership with New Hampshire Fish and Game, researchers are investigating ways to reverse the decline of our state's iconic moose population. On the Seacoast, UNH experts recently pinpointed the pathogen that shuts down shellfish beds and sickens those who eat raw oysters, with devastating effects on oyster farmers' livelihoods. At the mouth of the Piscataqua, UNH scientists are partnering with local fishermen on an innovative aquaculture project to grow steelhead trout, mussels and sugar kelp in symbiosis. This project offers fishermen new jobs and opportunities, and has the potential to relieve pressure on New England's cod fishery.

The Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute, led by Manchester's DEKA with major contributions from UNH, is using an $80 million award from the Department of Defense to jump-start a new industry focused on regenerating human tissue and organs. Hypertherm, a cutting-edge technology innovator that employs 1,400 people in the Upper Valley and around the world, got its start with a discovery made at Dartmouth with federal support. Dartmouth professor Charles Sentman's research, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) across 14 years, led to new cancer therapies that have been brought to market in partnership with Lebanon's Celdara Medical.

World-class UNH space scientists rely on federal funding in their quest to understand space weather as well as solar storms and eruptions - knowledge that will allow us to better protect our power grid and satellite communications. However, these scientists fear that shortfalls in federally funded research are already jeopardizing US leadership. At a recent forum we attended with UNH students and professors, Harlan Spence, director of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space, said: "I used to be proud to go to international meetings and be going as a US citizen. At that point, we were looking in the rearview mirror at other nations and partners behind us. Now I see a lot of tail lights."

Americans can be heartened by the budget agreement for the remainder of 2017 that passed in Congress early this month. It significantly increases funding for NIH and other scientific research, and confirms longstanding bipartisan support in Congress for federally funded research. We hope that this bipartisan consensus will spur the Trump administration to reconsider its call for deep cuts to these initiatives next year.

The challenge in every federal budget is to make prudent choices, and this includes recognizing the difference between cutting fat and cutting muscle and brain. Generous investments in scientific research have paid enormous dividends in the past, and are more important today than ever. This is about creating new industries and jobs, and sustaining US global economic leadership. It is also about keeping UNH and other Granite State research institutions in the forefront of innovation.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-Madbury, represents New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate. Mark Huddleston is president of the University of New Hampshire.