April 01, 2009

Cash, Jobs For NanoCollege

By: by Larry Rulison, Business Writer, Times Union


ALBANY International Business Machines Corp. and its research partners are committed to spending $1 billion at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering through 2013, resulting in 600 new jobs.

The investment was announced Monday as the NanoCollege held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new $150 million NanoFab East building at the campus on Fuller Road.

"It's all new money," Alain Kaloyeros, chief executive of the NanoCollege, said of the IBM spending. "We're not putting in any of our money."

Kaloyeros said the bulk of the money $625 million would go toward developing computer chip technology with features only 22 nanometers wide, which is the next frontier in semiconductor design.

To put that in perspective, a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, and a human hair is 100,000 nanometers wide.

The remaining $375 million would go toward programs and infrastructure at the college, Kaloyeros said.

The funding commitment from IBM extends a research agreement it has with the NanoCollege to 2013; it was set to expire in 2011. The college currently has 2,200 people working on its campus, which is located across Fuller Road from the University at Albany.

IBM, which usually conducts its research with a consortium of other chip companies, relies heavily on the college as a testing ground for all its major chip advances prior to sending them to manufacturing at its East Fishkill chip fab.

John Kelly, IBM's director of research, said the $1 billion number represents a $200 million incremental increase in its planned investment at the college.

"We are committed here in a big way," Kelly said at Monday's event. "We're committed for the long term."

NanoCollege officials later said the IBM increase through 2013 is actually closer to $250 million.

IBM will have one floor of space at the new 250,000-square-foot NanoFab East building. A separate 100,000-square-foot building connected by a skywalk holds a new 15,000-square-foot clean room for semiconductor research.

Monday's event also became a celebration of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. College officials said that the $4.5 billion Albany NanoTech campus started with $5 million from the state more than a decade ago.

"That is the payoff of our investment, and I am proud about having a small part in it," Silver said.

The event began 30 minutes late to accommodate the arrival of Silver and Gov. David Paterson, who had been at the Capitol announcing a deal on the new $131.8 billion state budget.

Silver said he invited the governor to the NanoCollege ceremony Sunday night as they were wrapping up budget talks.

"He asked me if I'd like to come," Paterson said.

Nine political leaders and business executives spoke at the event, which was attended by 200 IBM employees and hundreds more from the college and the business community.

Also at the event was Michael Polcari, CEO of Sematech Inc., the computer chip consortium based in Austin, Texas, that is also putting a headquarters at the college, taking up one floor of the new building.

As part of a separate $600 million agreement with the state, Sematech is adding 450 jobs to the 250 jobs it already has here.

The extension of the deal between IBM and the NanoCollege is in addition to the $1.6 billion deal that IBM and the state agreed to last summer that would create 1,000 new high-tech jobs in the state, including 325 at the NanoCollege.