by Bill Sproull, President/CEO of the Metroplex Technology Business Council
At the Metroplex Technology Business Council, we believe that a passionate pursuit of technology creates the innovation and productivity that benefits the lives of North Texans today and tomorrow.
Our Texas legislative environment is a vital part of the tech ecosystem that helps fuel the Texas economy.
The MTBC Board of Directors has approved our 2015 state legislative agenda based on input from the members, who employ more than 250,000 Texans.
Patents are essential to innovation, and Texas needs to protect its current innovation-based companies as well as attract new ones.
Legitimate patent infringement litigation is necessary for the protection of intellectual property. However, bad faith patent assertions and frivolous litigation brought by non-practicing entities, also known as patent trolls, stifles innovation and raises costs, limiting business growth.
Research shows that 67 percent of all patent litigation is now brought by non-practicing entities. These unearned settlements equate to ransom demands from business terrorists. Absent federal action to correct this problem, we feel the Texas state legislature should adopt legislation that prevents bad faith patent infringement assertions by non-practicing entities. Twenty nine other states have already implemented changes to address this challenge.
To remain competitive, we support the continued use of the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Texas Emerging Technology fund with a well-documented and transparent governance structure. These economic development tools bring large technology companies to Texas, as well as seed and retain public university-affiliated entrepreneurs, faculty and inventors, ensuring that Texas remains competitive with other states and nations.
Our higher education institutions are training the innovative minds and leaders of tomorrow. These universities also undertake fundamental and applied research that benefits our industry and economy. It is absolutely critical for Texas schools to graduate more tech degree students to fill the jobs that our companies want to source locally.
We want the legislature to increase funding for the Texas Research Incentive Program, which matches private donations for research at the state’s emerging research universities such as the University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of North Texas in Denton. The TRIP fund is already oversubscribed this year, which means universities are not getting the leverage they need to continue to attract research donations and grants.
Our universities also need a building construction and renovation program to keep up with rising enrollments. It’s been more than six years since the Legislature last approved a tuition revenue bond program, which finances building construction and renovation.
We were disappointed last year by the choice of legislators to retreat from rigorous high school graduation standards, which we believe will lead to fewer graduates prepared for college STEM programs.
According to reports, the number of Texas jobs requiring post-secondary education will have grown 20 percent between 2008 and 2018, and STEM jobs will have grown by 22 percent – faster than in most other states. More than 90 percent of jobs in STEM will require post-secondary education.
Texas should require all public schools to set a distinguished level of achievement as the default graduation plan. In addition, we should adequately fund STEM education programs, including T-STEM academies and UTEACH. Finally, the legislature should increase public education funding consistent with constitutional requirements while maintaining strong accountability standards.
Along with technology, transportation is the other T that has enabled our state to grow. Even with the passage of Proposition 1 last November, transportation funding to maintain Texas highways and build new infrastructure will still fall short $2-$3 billion per year. To accommodate our growing population and reduce congestion, transportation funding should be increased by $5 billion a year (including Prop 1 funding) through such steps as redirecting motor vehicle sales taxes to the state highway fund.
William C. “Bill” Sproull is president/CEO of the Metroplex Technology Business Council, the largest technology trade association in Texas. It’s an advocate for growth of the technology community across North Texas.