May 13, 2011
By: by Larry Rulison, Business Writer, Times Union
ALBANY -- U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson is pushing for a new federally funded nanotechnology center for the Defense Department -- potentially worth tens of millions of dollars if not more -- that could end up one day being located at the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.
The freshman Republican from Kinderhook, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, included an amendment in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act asking the Defense Department to study the creation of a federally funded research and development center for nanotechnology. The bill still needs approval from the entire House, as well as the Senate.
Although the center could be placed anywhere in the country, Gibson believes that the NanoCollege, located at the $7 billion Albany NanoTech complex on Fuller Road, could be an ideal candidate for the designation.
"Look, we're going to have to win it," Gibson said. "But I think we're going to be very competitive."
Gibson, a Siena College and Cornell University graduate who spent 24 years in the Army, including four combat tours in Iraq, says he knows the value that coatings and composite materials developed using nanotechnology can have on weapons, making them lighter and more durable and dependable. He gained much of that knowledge working as a military fellow with the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.
"The possibilities are nearly limitless," he said.
Nanotechnology is developed at the molecular level and advances have huge implications not only for the electronics industry, but also in medicine and defense applications.
Gibson also included in the defense bill an additional $7 million for nanotechnology research -- which would also be up for grabs by the NanoCollege or possibly other schools like Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy.
"It's really a very smart move that he did," said Alain Kaloyeros, chief executive officer of the NanoCollege. "It's a brilliant move."
Gibson says that the Armed Services Committee is fully behind the creation of the new nanotech center, and he intends to soon approach U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for her support in the Senate.
"We want to work with her," Gibson said.
Although Albany NanoTech is not located in Gibson's district, -- U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko's district covers the facility -- Gibson toured it in December and vowed to work with Tonko to support its programs.
There are roughly 40 federally funded research and development centers across the United States that support technological research for various federal agencies, including many that operate on behalf of the Department of Energy.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology operates one such center at Hanscom Air Force Base outside Boston called the Lincoln Laboratory that has 3,000 employees and an annual budget of more than $700 million. That center was founded in 1951 and works on missile defense, cyber security, advanced electronics, aircraft control and homeland security.
The NanoCollege, which has been built largely on funding from the state and private enterprise like IBM and Tokyo Electron that do research at Albany NanoTech, has increasingly been grabbing more federal funding, especially as it has broadened its mission beyond computer chips.
Kaloyeros estimates the NanoCollege brings in roughly $15 million in federal funding annually, although that was before it landed a $57.5 million Department of Energy grant last month to create a national solar manufacturing consortium.