Schaefer seeks 3 high-tech research centers

January 16, 1991|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Evening Sun Staff

Gov. William Donald Schaefer, as part of his budget request for next year, is seeking nearly $7 million for three new research centers: in technology, advanced communications and marine research.

Aides to Schaefer said there will be fewer dollars than usual for tTC business initiatives in the fiscal 1992 budget plan the governor will submit soon to the General Assembly.

The following projects, however, have made the cut, aides said:

* Schaefer is seeking $1 million in operating funds to help launch the proposed Maryland Information Technologies Center, a one-of-a-kind facility that would study and test digital communications technology.

Such technology involves encoding and rapidly transmitting data satellite or fiber optic cable, which is expected to be a improvement over traditional cables and copper wires. Eventually the new technology should allow for the combined transmission of sound, pictures, facsimiles and other data.

More than $3 million in private funding from Bell Atlantic, IBM and other corporations has already been committed for the center, to be operated as a consortium of public and private organizations. Bell Atlantic has pledged access to its $20 million switching center -- a collection of sophisticated microprocessors and circuit boards -- in Silver Spring. The new research center probably would be located near Bell Atlantic's switching center.

To help fund the new center, Schaefer is seeking $5 million over five years, and private industry is expected to kick in about $9 million. In addition, planners have applied for a $3.88 million federal grant.

* Schaefer is seeking $1.8 million in the capital budget for the new Christopher Columbus Center for Marine Research and Discovery, slated for Piers 5 and 6 at the Inner Harbor. At its heart would be Colwell's Center of Marine Bio-Technology, which is now housed at the Community College of Baltimore.

Planners hope to receive $58 million in federal funding, $18.8 million from the state investment, and about the same from city over the next three years.

* Schaefer is requesting $2 million in funds for design and engineering studies to launch the new Maryland Bioprocessing Facility. It would offer laboratory space and consulting expertise to help companies produce new drugs, medicine and other bio-technology products on a scale large enough for federal testing. The testing is an expensive procedure that often requires small companies to license their products to larger companies, who then manufacture the finished products out of state.

State officials hope the $22 million center would serve as a magnet for companies looking to locate their research and production facilities.

To help cover operating costs, the center would require another $5 million in federal funds, $17 million from the state, and $2 to $4 million each year in user fees.

The center would probably be built near Johns Hopkins University's Bayview center or the Catonsville science park of the University of Maryland, said Rita Colwell, director of the Maryland Bio-Technology Institute and the Center for Marine Bio-Technology.

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