Proponents of LD 1324 after testifying: (L to R) Tom Rainey of MCED; Chris Davis of the Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center; Brian Whitney, president of MTI; Catherine Renault, a consultant and former director of innovation for Maine; Martha Bentley, director of innovation infrastructure at MTI; and Rep. Martin Grohman, the bill’s sponsor.

The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development held a public hearing Wednesday on LD 1324, the bill that would broaden the Maine Technology Institute’s scope.

As previously reported, the bill would explicitly proffer certain powers onto the organization, including the ability to administer and support business incubators like the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development, which is at risk of losing its state funding from the Department of Economic and Community Development after Gov. Paul LePage proposed cutting it from his biennial budget. The bill would also allow MTI to assist the University of Maine System and nonprofit research labs with technology transfer and commercialization, and create a program to replace the now-defunct Maine Patent Program.

Rep. Martin Grohman (D-Biddeford), the bill’s sponsor, said after the hearing that he was “cautiously optimistic” about the bill’s chances in front of the committee, which has yet to vote on it.

“The hearing went well,” Grohman told Maine Startups Insider. “I think because I worked with MTI prior to submitting the legislation, trying to get their input, they were able to come out in support.”

Indeed, Brian Whitney, MTI’s president, testified in favor of the bill, though he first reiterated comments he previously made to Maine Startups Insider that he believes MTI’s enabling statute is already broad enough to allow MTI to pursue the projects outlined in the bill.

“That said, the concepts outlined in LD 1324 help provide MTI further guidance about potential program offerings and are largely consistent with the state’s recently developed five-year innovation action plan and MTI’s own strategic plan, which is in its final stage of development and adoption,” Whitney testified before the committee.

Others who testified in favor of the bill include Cathy Renault, a former director of innvoation for the state (her testimony); Tom Rainey, executive director of MCED (his testimony); and Chris Davis, director of the Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center (his testimony).