February 19, 2013
Universities leading transition in upstate
By: Jessica Bakeman
Source: Gannett News Service
Knowledge-based businesses growing
ALBANY — The
higher-education sector in New York has led all other industries in job
growth over the last decade, and officials said colleges and
universities are playing a primary role in the transition from a
labor-based to a knowledge-based economy.
biomedical science, analytics and renewable energy development have
pushed aside manufacturing and agriculture as burgeoning industries in
New York, particularly upstate. As the state continues to struggle with
population losses and its unemployment rate, which is higher than the
national average, colleges are emerging as economic drivers.
The shift is clear in the labor statistics.
2000 to 2010, private higher education institutions in New York grew by
38 percent, or nearly 69,800 employees, while total private-sector jobs
in the state decreased by 1.1 percent, or 134,600 workers. No other
sector grew as much, according to a state Labor Department report.
State University of New York, a public system, grew by nearly 20
percent, or by 14,304 employees, during the same period. There were
73,236 employees in 2000 and 87,540 in 2010. Enrollment increased 63
percent in that decade, from 289,495 to 471,184.
In manufacturing, the state lost a whopping 294,500 jobs from 2000 to 2010, a 39.1 percent drop.
York state, especially the Mid-Hudson region, was an integral part of
the manufacturing economy – the economy that put warehouses all up and
down the Hudson River, with the natural resources from iron all the way
to timber, and personnel to be able to create and manufacture goods and
then ship them efficiently,” said Geoff Brackett, executive vice
president of Marist College in Poughkeepsie. “Those days are clearly
Now, universities are partnering with existing corporations
or creating new businesses to market products and services they
develop, officials said. Research labs are “ecosystems” shared with
companies as they work to pioneer technological advances.
link between higher education, the business community and particularly
the state government is getting smarter and more sophisticated,” said
Joel Seligman, president of the University of Rochester, the city’s
largest employer with more than 22,000 workers. “And it’s one which has
been a priority for the governor.”
State investments in higher education
of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s major initiatives in his first term use state
money to stimulate economic development, and the higher education sector
has been a main beneficiary of his investments.
Cuomo laid out
plans in his State of the State last month to establish five “innovation
hotspots” in different regions of the state, which would be high-tech
incubators where universities and the private sector will develop
start-up companies. The hotspots would be tax-free zones.
to spend $1.25 million initially on the hotspots, and $5 million as the
program continues. Lost tax revenue will be an additional cost to the
Cuomo also suggested using a $50 million state-backed
venture capital fund to provide seed money to businesses that get
started in the incubators.
SUNY has already established or is
currently developing 16 incubators, as well as six “Centers for Advanced
Technology” and eight “Centers of Excellence,” which house
university-industry research collaboration and aim for commercialization
of their products.
“The economic challenge that continues is
tech-transfer from academia to commercialization,” Cuomo said during his
address Jan. 9. “This is still the area where New York has been
Cuomo said New York ranks second in the country in
research dollars spent, but the state only gets 4 percent of the
nation’s venture capital. California, which is first in research, gets
47 percent of venture capital.
“We’re doing the research. We’ve
developed the ideas. We have the academic institutions,” he said. “We’re
not making the transference to commercialization.”
announced two years ago a competitive grant program called “NYSUNY
2020.” In the first round, the state provided $140 million in grants to
finance economic development plans at the four university centers -- the
University at Buffalo, the University at Albany, Binghamton University
and Stony Brook University on Long Island.
The second round of
grants totaled $60 million, and all SUNY campuses were eligible to
apply. Cuomo announced a third round this year.
grants are funding the construction a 70,000 square foot “Smart Energy
Center,” where scientists and engineers will work to develop new
materials for renewable energy.
President Harvey Stenger said
the future facility will bolster the university’s plans to increase
enrollment from 15,000 to 17,000, and to add 150 faculty positions and
175 staff positions.
At the new research center, “a small
investment could create a large number of jobs and a very large economic
impact if ideas coming from our laboratories … can make a $100 million
or $1 billion a year company,” he said.
The governor is also in his third year of distributing stimulus funds through 10 Regional Economic Development Councils.
2012, the Mid-Hudson, Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions were big
winners through the councils, each securing more than $90 million in
grants and tax incentives.
Both New York Medical College in
Valhalla, Westchester County, and Marist College in Poughkeepsie will be
receiving awards. The medical school will put last year’s $1 million
award toward completing a biotechnology incubator, and Marist will use
$3 million to establish a Cloud Computing and Analytics Center.
Amler, vice president of government affairs at New York Medical
College, said the incubator will allow researchers who haven’t had
business experience to market their discoveries.
“A lot of
academic biomedical researchers are working to chase an idea, a dream, a
notion that they’ve had to take what they’ve learned over the years and
develop that idea into a product … that could make life better for a
very large number of people,” Amler said. “We are motivated by that, and
we chase our dreams.”
Critics said if Cuomo wants to foster
business growth, he should start with tax and regulatory relief. They
questioned whether the tax-subsidies and grants will spur development
off the campuses.
“If you do generate a environment” with lower
taxes and fewer regulations, “you’re not going to have to throw as much
money to businesses to entice them to start up or to get them to move to
New York,” said Michael Durant, state director of the National
Federation of Independent Business.
From the lab to the market
University and business leaders warn that New York’s researchers are missing opportunities to sell products they’ve developed.
obstacle in the path of turning the state’s research discoveries into
marketable products is the reward structure within academia, said
Timothy Killeen, president of the SUNY Research Foundation and the
system’s vice chancellor for research.
traditionally been rewarded for procuring grants and publishing work in
peer-reviewed journals -- not for creating new companies or ushering
inventions toward the marketplace, Killeen said.
“We have to flip that model,” agreed Brian Sampson, executive director of Unshackle Upstate, a Rochester-based business group.
state has “some catching up to do,” said Peter Dworkin, vice president
for corporate communications at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, a
biotechnology firm headquartered in Tarrytown, Westchester County.
Dworkin said his company was founded and will stay in Westchester
because of proximity to New York City’s research universities.
universities have been more entrepreneurial about encouraging their
professors to set up companies, to out-license their patents and their
inventions, and others have been less so,” Dworkin said. “It’s probably
true that New York-based universities, even though many of them are
world class, haven’t embraced this sort of academic-industry
The state is moving more in the right direction, though, college officials said.
2011, Cuomo announced the state would allocate $400 million toward a
$4.8 billion collaboration between the University of Albany’s Center for
Nanoscale Science and Engineering and five leading international
companies: IBM, Intel, GlobalFoundries, Samsung and TSMC.
They’re making cutting-edge computer chips.
is so complex that it requires a diverse set of brains -- physicists,
chemists, biologists, engineers, technicians -- to work together,” said
Alain Kaloyeros, senior vice president and CEO of the nanoscale college.
“And not a single company can bring that entire skill set to the
The nanotechnology facility employs 3,100 people, and
supports 650 to 700 other companies throughout the state, totaling
15,000 jobs, Kaleyeros said.
The university has “nano” centers
near Rochester and Utica, and there are plans to build new facilities
in Buffalo and Syracuse. The research is being manufactured at a massive
chip plant in Malta, Saratoga County.
In western New York’s cities, universities have made strides in biomedical research.
University of Rochester has received $1.8 billion in biomedical
research funding over the past five years and files for 47 patents
annually for its medical discoveries. For example, the university helped
to develop Gardasil, a vaccine for the strain of human papillomavirus
(HPV) that can cause cervical cancer.
Twelve companies are located
at an incubator on the University at Buffalo campus, including
Simulated Surgical Systems, which is commercializing a simulator for
robotic surgery, and Kinex Pharmaceuticals, which is developing new
In Ithaca, Cornell University helped start
12 new companies in fiscal year 2010, including Widetronix, which makes
low-power, long-lasting batteries.
Marist’s cloud computing and
analytics enterprise serves businesses and non-profits in the mid-Hudson
area. For example, researchers built and now operate an online platform
for the digital collections of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential
Library in Hyde Park, Dutchess County.
“We’re at the beginning of a
real opportunity for growth for businesses in the region,” Brackett,
the executive vice president, said.
Educating skilled workers
Another role universities and colleges play is educating future workers.
Henesey, IBM’s vice president of business development in Armonk,
Westchester County, said the global corporation works closely with
universities particularly to develop a pipeline of technical employees.
been drawing employees, engineers, fellows, executives … from academic
institutions in New York for many, many decades,” Henesey said. “It’s
really part of the heritage of the company, and we certainly see that
The state is trying to improve workforce training.
are 210,000 unfilled jobs in New York because the companies can’t find
workers with the skills we need,” Cuomo said in his State of the State.
SUNY has launched an enrollment growth strategy that aims to fulfill New York’s job-market needs.
need students majoring in the fields that will be the driver behind
nanoscience, the driver behind biomedical research, the driver behind
smart energy,” SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher said. “So the biggest, the
core mission of a place like SUNY is making sure we educate the future