Maine Economic Improvement Fund at the University of Southern Maine

The University of Southern Maine (USM) is invested in our state’s long-term quality of life. We utilize funding from the Maine Economic Improvement Fund (MEIF @ USM) to respond to the community’s needs in target areas, solve immediate problems, and provide long-term practical solutions.


What is the Maine Economic Improvement Fund?

The Maine Economic Improvement Fund (MEIF) was established by the Maine State Legislature in 1997 to support the development of private enterprise through investing in applied research and development performed within the University of Maine System in seven target areas: 

  • Biotechnology
  • Aquaculture and marine technology
  • Composite materials technology
  • Environmental technology
  • Advanced technologies for forestry and agriculture
  • Information technology
  • Precision manufacturing technology

MEIF @ USM is an economic development investment tool that enables USM to contribute to the creation of a thriving economy in Maine. MEIF @ USM seeds initiatives that strengthen USM's applied research and workforce development capacities in strategic areas that are responsive to the needs of businesses and industries in one or more of the seven MEIF target areas and/or support ecosystems. 

  • "Support ecosystems" refer to all the key players external to USM that are involved in, rely on, or support a target area. Examples include growers, manufacturers, processors, distributors, suppliers, business services, tourism, community agencies and organizations, trade associations, medical facilities, critical infrastructure, and cultural and educational institutions. 
  • At USM we define "applied research" broadly to include research, evaluation, and technical assistance with a view to solving practical problems in response to a specific articulated need from a community partner. We intend that our applied research will both solve an immediate problem and provide a long-term practical solution. 

MEIF @ USM invests in: 

  • Strategic initiatives. Review MEIF @ USM Procedures for Selecting Strategic Investment for procedures for selecting, developing, and reviewing proposals for strategic initiatives. 
  • Internship programs and the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). 
  • Graduate research assistantships and requests for small research equipment.
  • Course releases that promote the submission of successful proposals for extramural funding from federal, foundation, or other research sponsors. 
  • Requests for matching funds required in proposals for extramural funding. 

Review MEIF @ USM Award Policies for applicant eligibility, allowable uses of MEIF @ USM Funds, and other award policies. 

An initiative could lead directly to economic development but that is not enough to make it eligible for MEIF @ USM investment. To be eligible for MEIF @ USM investment an initiative must meet the following four fundamental requirements: 

  • MEIF Target Area: Aligns with at least one MEIF target area.
  • Community Needs: Addresses documented needs of one or more businesses and industries in the target area and/or support ecosystems. 
  • Measurable Workforce Development Outcomes: Includes measurable outcomes, especially those related to workforce development that could span the K-to-Workforce continuum. 
  • Economic Development Impacts: Outcomes map to one or more of the economic development impacts in the Maine Development Foundation's 2018 Measures of Growth, or another more appropriate economic development impacts that are relevant to the initiative. 

In addition to the fundamental requirements, an initiative must:

  • Align with one or more outcomes of the MEIF @ USM Strategic Framework.
  • Include meaningful partnerships with business/industries in the target area and/or support ecosystem, and multi-disciplinary collaborations with more than one USM college, and/or UMS universities.
  • Include a return on investment strategy for securing and leveraging external funds through sponsored grants, fee for services, and/or commitments from partners.
  • Include a well thought out and reasonable sustainability strategy to grow the initiative post MEIF @ USM support. 

Each MEIF @ USM project is designed to benefit our state by developing a skilled and educated workforce and providing services to technology-based industries. Below you'll find examples of some of the initiatives we've undertaken within the target technology areas. 


  • Microalgal Growth Optimization
    • Research Project: Our Department of Biology researched microalgae to determine the growth conditions needed for them to produce lipids, which can be used for biofuels. The students were trained in basic lab techniques, as well as microalgal culturing. 
    • Community Impact: Engaging students in research is a key element in developing a trained and educated workforce. Of the students involved with this project, one is now employed with a Maine-based biotechnology company; two students are enrolled in graduate studies in pharmacy and dentistry, respectively; and another was awarded the Tom Knight Memorial Scholarship for exceptional dedication to research and academics. 

Advanced technologies for forestry and agriculture

  • Suds to Shrimp
    • Research Project: Our Department of Environmental Science and Policy created a retail and wholesale network focused on polyculture aquaponic systems in Maine. Students and faculty developed a sustainable food production process utilizing a multi-species aquaponics system, and they even recycled a byproduct from the beer-brewing process (aka 'suds-brewing'). Waste beer grains, which have valuable protein content, were used to grow prawns, tilapia, and vegetables. 
    • Community Impact: the project demonstrated practical methods for overcoming economic barriers to the development of Maine's aquaponic industry and workforce. This included a business model in which aquaponic services were marketed to restaurants. 

Information technology

  • Data Innovation Project
    • Research Project: The Data Innovation Project (DIP) improves organizational capacity for data-informed decision making by providing access to affordable information and instruction, skilled technical assistance, and open access to a growing data and resource repository. 
    • Community Impact: The DIP employed graduate assistants and held programming which included summit events in Portland and Orono reaching over 250 people representing over 100 organizations; conducted 26 free data clinics with nonprofits; and delivered 14 workshops. 

A key component of the University's commitment to workforce development is maintaining a pipeline of skilled, educated workers to Maine's industries. Through MEIF funding and strategic partnerships, we offer more than 100 paid internships each year- adding to the University's many internship opportunities.

The MEIF-supported internship programs are intentionally designed learning experiences that integrate knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in the professional settings of our host site community partners. 

Become an Internship Host Site

Host sites have an opportunity to connect with and mentor potential future employees. For more information visit our Career & Employment Hub.

Referring Students

Do you know students with leadership qualities? Refer them to the MEIF Internship Application

Additional Areas of Support

On a case-by-case basis, the University utilizes MEIF funds to support: 

  • Our students:
  • Our faculty and professional research staff: 
    • Requests for small research equipment.
    • Course release to lay the groundwork for proposals to receive extramural funding.
    • Requests for matching funds required in proposals for extramural funding. 

Learn More

Connect with the MEIF Team