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The Utah Science Technology and Research initiative is a long-term investment in Utah's economy. With a focus on commercialization, USTAR recruits world-class innovators at the leading edge of creating new technologies. All this fuels an engine to generate new startups, technology companies and high-paying jobs.

In just five years, the program is ahead of initial projections in every significant category, including new patents, job creation, company formation and grants obtained. More than $182 million in new research funding has been delivered to Utah and an estimated 2,900 new jobs have been created. And our state's innovation infrastructure has seen a powerful upgrade, with two new research buildings, one at Utah State University and one at the University of Utah.

But the impact doesn't stop at our research institutions. A regional technology commercialization outreach program helps USTAR expand its reach to every corner of Utah. In fact, USTAR's Technology Outreach team has spearheaded more than 500 commercialization projects in 19 different counties, and has helped companies statewide raise $42 million in follow-on capital, including private investment and grants.

Despite these promising early results, our progress is poised to slow if the state funding cuts in recent years are not restored, as more than 40 leading business leaders have urged the Legislature to do. The group went further, encouraging legislators to increase funding by an additional $10 million, thus maximizing the benefits of USTAR as Utah leads the nation in economic recovery.

At a time when other states continue to cut research funding, Utah has the opportunity to take advantage of a "buyer's market" and recruit more world-class researchers, helping both higher education and technology innovation. Without restored funding, this opportunity will be lost. Moreover, because funding has been reduced below 2007 levels, not all commitments to current researchers could be met. This risks sending a negative message to potential research recruits at a time when the program is gaining momentum and national accolades.

Funding USTAR helps our state in so many ways. It increases the status and research infrastructure of our universities, helping our students learn new technology as it's developed. It helps diversify rural economies by empowering local entrepreneurs to connect with new innovations and business opportunities. And it puts Utah on the map as a serious player in innovation, research and technology.

We know our legislators face tough decisions and must balance many competing interests. But we hope they will see USTAR funding as a long-term investment in Utah's future — an investment that will pay many returns in the coming years.

Dinesh Patel is chair of the USTAR Governing Authority and managing director of vSpring Capital.