Historically, the states took little direct interest in stimulating the vitality of the scientific enterprise within their borders, although their support for state colleges and universities certainly advanced their scientific enterprise indirectly. In the initial post–World War II decades, the states greatly expanded their support for postsecondary education, but for the most part left science policy to initiatives of the federal government. Subsequently, however, the states began to assume a more independent role in science and technology policy as a means of enhancing their economic prospects through improvements to their research and development base, as well as providing new opportunities for their citizens. Indeed, many states began to notice that states with a tradition of support for research within their systems of higher education attracted technology-intense industries, which were growing in importance.
Although CIRM is unique among state programs in many respects, it reflects this pattern of state efforts over the past few decades to support initiatives in science and technology. Although there is substantial heterogeneity among such state programs, reflecting in part the role of states as policy laboratories, several trends have been observed in the development of these programs over time (Plosila, 2004). Often, a key element in this dynamic has been greater recognition by state policy makers of the potential role of particular components of university research programs in state and regional economic development. Over time, the result has been a number of initiatives to support targeted university-based research. These research funding policies represent a shift from earlier state policies that tended to focus on recruiting existing firms or large-scale scientific projects, such as the Microelectronics Computer Consortium and the Superconducting Super Collider (Plosila, 2004). The creation of CIRM by California voters and the agency’s focus on advancing stem cell science and the field of regenerative medicine fall squarely within these larger trends.
As states focused their targeted science and technology policy initiatives more on certain university-based efforts in the 1980s and 1990s, a wide variety of programs were developed (Berglund and Coburn, 1995). A recent examination of the development of state science policies has identified three major classes of programs intended to build state scientific capacity: university research grant programs, eminent scholars programs, and centers of excellence programs (Feldman et al., in press). Of these, CIRM most closely parallels university research grant programs, the oldest of which date to the early 1980s, which have been adopted in some form by nearly 30 states. Initially, most of these programs supported a broad range of science, but states have increasingly narrowed their focus so as to develop expertise