Alaska Science and Technology Foundation to shut down

Posted: Friday, May 30, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) The Alaska Science and Technology Foundation is shutting down at the end of June.

The Anchorage-based foundation, established in 1988, was among state programs lawmakers agreed to eliminate to help fill the gap in the Alaska's operating budget.

The cut leaves about a dozen upstart companies, entrepreneurs and research groups that had been receiving grant money from the foundation's endowment looking for new sources of funding.

The ASTF was founded with an aim toward diversifying Alaska's economy.

The state staked the foundation with a $100 million endowment. That money was invested, and the profits were used to provide seed money to manufacturing and technology startups.

The ASTF also has funded research and development projects in partnership with industry and the state university, and it provided grants to Alaska teachers to promote science and math programs.

Lawmakers over the years had frequently eyed the foundation's endowment as a way to fill budget holes and in recent years tapped some of its funds for various projects.

The ASTF has made more than 800 grants, about half of which were direct grants to teachers. Recipients shared in the risk by putting up matching funds, and most received the grant money in increments as they reached milestones specified in their agreements with the foundation.

Grant recipients also agreed to make royalty payments back to the ASTF once they reached certain milestones and their businesses became profitable.

The ASTF has sent letters to all of its grant recipients telling them that their payback obligation still stands, but no more payments will be made, according to Executive Director Hans Roeterink, who moved from the East Coast to take the helm last fall.

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, a state business lending agency, will administer the existing grant contracts starting July 1.

''It will be a pure collection function,'' Roeterink told the Anchorage Daily News.

Depending on investment market conditions, the ASTF's endowment could be anywhere between $85 million and $90 million when it is transferred to the state's general fund on July 1, Roeterink said.

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