Federal funding secured by Senators Collins and King will accelerate University of Maine System-led economic and community development 

ORONO, Maine — The six-bill federal budget package passed by Congress last week and signed by President Biden on Saturday will invest $40.8 million in University of Maine System (UMS) infrastructure and innovation to strengthen student opportunity and the state’s economy and local communities.

Much of the one-time Congressionally Directed Spending secured for UMS by Sen. Susan Collins, vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, with the support of Sen. Angus King and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden, will adapt Maine farming, fishing and forestry for the future through research and development led by the University of Maine (UMaine). 

UMaine is the state’s only institution to achieve R1 Carnegie Classification for “very high” research activity.

“The University of Maine System is our state’s most important economic and community development asset. To meet the innovation needs of Maine industry, our public universities need accessible, modern facilities and equipment that complement the caliber of our world-class researchers and provide them the capacity they need to drive the development of the state’s workforce and new products, technological processes and partnerships,” said Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “Consistent with our strategic and capital plans, this one-time federal funding secured for the System by Senator Collins with the support of Senator King and Representatives Pingree and Golden will enable strategic investments in our infrastructure that will pay ongoing dividends for Maine and ultimately benefit every Mainer.”  

The range of funded requests reflects the unique reach of the System into all sectors of the Maine economy, and the significant needs of UMS, which has $1.6 billion in deferred maintenance and capital reinvestment requirements. Dozens of letters were submitted to Sens. Collins and King by community and business leaders in support of the UMS projects, which will expand or construct centers to enable forest biomaterials development, aquaculture workforce training and agricultural testing services. Projects will also enable the university to address the state’s need for more affordable housing and expand local access to child care, arts and culture, and youth sports and development. 

“On their own, any of these projects will go a long way to address critical challenges and opportunities necessary for specific sectors or parts of the state to move forward amid changing markets and climate. When taken together, the collective impact will be transformative for the state,” said UMS Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation and UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy. “We are deeply grateful to the Maine Congressional Delegation for their leadership. In particular, Senator Collins, as vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has been extremely effective in securing this significant investment for our universities, enabling them to deliver solutions for growth for Maine.”

In advance of a March 22 deadline, lawmakers in Washington are continuing to negotiate a second package of bills, which is expected to include additional Congressionally Directed Spending for UMS. 

UMS projects funded in the initial six-bill Fiscal Year 2024 package passed last week include:

University of Maine Forest Biomaterials Innovation Center and Equipment: Consistent with the recommendations of FOR/Maine (External Site), to build and equip the Forest Biomaterials Innovation Center, an extension on the existing UMaine Process Development Center, to enable researchers and entrepreneurs to develop new, forest-based products utilizing wood and wood residuals and create jobs and economic opportunity for Maine’s forest economy and dependent rural communities. ($10 million)

University of Maine Aquaculture Workforce Innovation Center: To construct a new state-of-the-art cold-water demonstration, training and applied research facility with a focus on using real fish, real systems and real problem solving. ($7 million)  

University of Maine Analytical Laboratory Modernization, Expansion and Equipment: Modernize and expand the UMaine Analytical Laboratory and Soil Testing Service, constructed in 1981, to increase capacity to provide in-demand testing for thousands of annual users, enhance soils research and foster hands-on student learning, and support the sustainability and growth of Maine’s natural resource economy and dependent jobs. ($5 million)

University of Maine Presque Isle Auditorium Renovation: To renovate the Gauvin Family Center for Cultural Arts at University of Maine Presque Isle. The beloved but antiquated performance space is a significant contributor to the arts and cultural offerings in the region, and a critical cornerstone central to the sustainability and growth of the UMPI campus, community and the County. ($4 million)

University of Maine BioHome3D Research and Development: UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center will accelerate the manufacturing scale-up and commercialization of its breakthrough BioHome3D housing construction technology to address the critical shortage of affordable homes in Maine and beyond. ($4 million)

University of Maine Black Bear Academy Child Care Center: To construct, expand and equip the Black Bear Academy, expanding UMaine’s existing childcare center to a total of 120 slots with a portion reserved for dependents of community members. ($4 million)

University of Maine Weather Station Network: To develop a network of automated weather stations across Maine that will enhance weather prediction and climate monitoring, assisting Maine farmers and forestry producers and improving hazard monitoring. ($3.548 million)

University of Maine Alfond Arena ADA Accessibility: Make Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements to UMaine’s legendary Alfond Arena, which welcomes more than 100,000 visitors annually. In addition to bringing the arena into compliance, consistent with Maine’s flagship university’s commitment to inclusive excellence, the project would promote greater public access including commencement and other campus activities, regional and statewide youth sport programs, and Black Bear sporting events.($2.15 million)  

University of Maine Semiconductor Research and Development: To conduct research on advanced semiconductor technology for harsh environments. ($750,000) 

University of Maine Ocean Habitat Strategic Plan in Partnership with Maine’s Lobster Industry: To partner with the Maine lobster fishery and State of Maine officials to develop a strategic North Atlantic Right Whale Habitat Characterization Strategic Plan. ($440,000) 

Sen. Collins also secured $17 million to establish a PFAS Center of Excellence at UMaine. While the funding will be directed at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS) and the center will be part of the New England Plant, Soil and Water Research Laboratory on the Orono campus, it builds on long-standing collaboration among UMaine, USDA ARS and Maine’s agriculture community and past investments requested by Sen. Collins for UMaine PFAS-related research and technical assistance.

Contact: Samantha Warren, University of Maine System Director of External Affairs, 207-632-0389, samantha.warren@maine.edu

About the University of Maine System

Established in 1968, the University of Maine System (UMS) unites seven Maine’s distinctive public universities, comprising 10 campuses and numerous centers, in the common purpose of providing quality higher education while delivering on its traditional tripartite mission of teaching, research, and public service.

In 2020 UMS became the first and only statewide enterprise of public higher education in the country to transition to a unified accreditation for the system. Much different than a merger or consolidation, unified accreditation is a new operating model for the University of Maine System that removes the primary barrier to inter-institutional collaboration.

A comprehensive public institution of higher education, UMS serves more than 30,000 students annually and is supported by the efforts of more than 2,000 full-time and part-time faculty, more than 3,000 regular full-time and part-time staff, and a complement of part-time temporary (adjunct) faculty.

Reaching more than 500,000 people annually through educational and cultural offerings, the University of Maine System also benefits from more than two-thirds of its alumni population residing within the state; more than 123,000 individuals.

The System consists of seven main campuses: The University of Maine (UMaine), including its regional campus the University of Maine at Machias (UMaine Machias); the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA); the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF); the University of Maine at Fort Kent (UMFK), the University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI); and the University of Southern Maine (USM). The System also includes a UMA campus in Bangor, USM campuses in Gorham and Lewiston-Auburn, the University of Maine School of Law, and the University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center.