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Montana State University Awarded Research Funding to Spur State's Economy


Commissioner of Higher Education Clay Christian, left, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and MSU President Waded Cruzado take questions after an announcement of MSU research funded as part of the state's first large-scale research initiative Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015 at the Arthur H. Post Research Farm near Bozeman. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.

Montana State University has received $4.7 million in the first projects announced as part of the state's first large-scale research initiative, officials announced last week.

The two MSU proposals that were announced immediately included a proposal to put into production the state's fallow agricultural land, and a proposal that will help pinpoint precision agriculture using laser optics.

MSU faculty members Barry Jacobsen, left, and Joe Shaw discuss research projects that have received funding as part of the state of Montana's first large-scale research initiative Tuesday, August 18, 2015 at the Arthur H. Post Research Farm near Bozeman. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.

"It's an exciting time, not only for the projects awarded but for the promise and opportunity that this presents for the future," said Gov. Steve Bullock, who announced the first portion of MSU's funding during a press conference at MSU's Arthur H. Post Research Farm, located west of Bozeman off of Huffine Lane. Gov. Bullock proposed the $15 million research initiative in his state budget in the fall of 2014. The 2015 Montana Legislature subsequently passed the initiative. It is the first state-funded research initiative of its depth and scope. Projects were selected through a competitive process. Faculty on the MSU campus submitted more than 150 proposals, which were winnowed down to just six. Of those, several projects were chosen for funding by an advisory panel made up of state legislators, industry and university system representatives. Two MSU projects that were awarded funding were announced last week. Additional projects from MSU that were selected for funding are expected to be announced in the near future. Industry representatives on the panel included Lola Raska, Montana Grain Growers Association executive director; Larry Simkins, Washington Companies president & CEO; and Ron Zook, Swan Valley Medical president & CEO. Legislative representatives included: Sen. Llew Jones, R-Conrad, and Rep. Ryan Lynch, D-Butte. University presidents Waded Cruzado and Royce Engstrom rounded out the advisory panel, which made its recommendations to Clayton Christian, Montana Commissioner of Higher Education. The initiative is called the Montana Research and Economic Development Initiative. All of the selected proposals needed to meet one or more of the following criteria: to address a Montana problem; to create Montana jobs in existing economic sectors; or to help spur new companies in Montana. "Governor Bullock, the Montana Legislature and the Montana University System worked together this past legislative session on a new kind of investment in science, technology and the Montana economy," Christian said, adding that the goal has been to convert university-based research into jobs and solutions for pressing problems. Many of the funded initiatives involve multiple researchers on multiple campuses in the Montana University System, as well as partnerships with private industry. Brief summaries of MSU's funded initiatives that have been announced are listed below, followed by the amount funded and the project's lead researcher:

Optics and photonics research for compact optical sensors that could be used in everything from precision agriculture to advanced imaging for detecting skin cancer: $2,496,513 (Joe Shaw)

Agricultural research into using pulse crops and cover crop mixes to replace fallow acres in rotation with wheat. Well-adapted to Montana's arid climate, such pulse crops like peas and lentils or cover crop mixes can naturally add important nutrients to the soil and produce revenue. Other aspects of the grant include developing and using new computational tools and ground and space-based sensors to develop field-specific precision agriculture prescriptions for fertility and pest control and to improve durum wheat productivity: $2,276,734 (Barry Jacobsen)


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