The Sun Grant Initiative concept arose from discussions between leadership at South Dakota State University and U.S. Senator Tom Daschle. These discussions began in late 2000 and proceeded through 2001. The founding principles are to develop biobased products, many of them with industrial applications, and concurrently stimulate renewed economic activity, particularly in rural areas.
Agricultural production has been, and will continue to be, the source of food, feed, and fiber. In coming years, agricultural commodities will provide primary building blocks for energy, materials and chemicals. These “biobased” products will include: liquid fuels, lubricants, plastics, building materials, neutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, industrial enzymes, monomers, polymers, and many other items. Advances in biological sciences, combined with continuing developments in process engineering, will make this possible.
As the science and technology developments moves forward, new industries continue to emerge and prosper. Additionally, existing companies will develop new businesses. Significant employment opportunities will also develop. Currently, many raw materials for industrial production are derived from petroleum. The biobased economy will not supplant the petroleum industry, but will complement and augment it. The Sun Grant Initiative is an activity that will enlist the resources of the nation’s Land-Grant Universities in helping push the biobased economy to reality.
Through activities involving South Dakota State University and Senator Daschle’s staff, the Sun Grant Initiative was proposed to occur in five regions, with coordination in each of the regions through one of the Land-Grant Universities. The South Central Region was defined as Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma. Oklahoma State University was asked to serve as the coordinating institution for the consortium. The other lead institutions were originally South Dakota State University, Cornell University, University of Tennessee, and Oregon State University.
Through a special Federal appropriation, funding was provided for planning purposes in federal FY02. These funds were used to convene regional planning sessions. Leadership of the Land Grant Universities in the South Central Region met for an initial orientation and planning session in April of 2002. Stakeholder meetings were held by the South Central Region in June of 2002 which involved individuals from within the consortium and external parties. Using input from these meetings, a planning document was developed and finalized in September 2002.