News

September 28, 2011

A Good Bet On Chips

By:

Source: Times Union

In another time, the announcement would have come from Silicon Valley, California, or perhaps Austin, Texas. But not on Tuesday. This time, news of the next big thing in computing came from Albany, New York.

Some of the computer industry's biggest names -- Intel, IBM, Global Foundries, TSMC and Samsung -- plan to develop the next generation of computer chip technology in the Empire State over the next five years. The $4.4 billion investment, most of it private with $400 million coming from the state, will bring research and development facilities to Albany, Canandaigua, Utica, East Fishkill and Yorktown Heights. Intel also intends to put its East Coast headquarters in Albany to manage its development of the 450- millimeter wafers of the future.

The firms and Governor Cuomo say this will mean 2,500 new high-tech jobs, including 800 at the University at Albany's College for Nanoscale and Science Engineering complex on Washington Avenue, and the preservation of 2,500 jobs in Albany, Canandaigua and East Fishkill. The work is also expected to create 1,500 construction jobs in Albany and 400 in Utica.

It's not a bad development in any economy, but in this economy, it's especially welcome news.

As for the state's investment, $400 million will go to UAlbany's NanoCollege for, among other things, energy efficiency, actual low-cost energy and equipment that will become the property of the college.

This puts what Mr. Cuomo calls the "epicenter for the next generation of computer chip technology" just down the road from one of the computer chip industry's newest plants, GlobalFoundries' chip fab in Malta. It opens the door, he adds, to a 450 mm wafer production plant in New York. That could bring thousands more jobs, if it happens.

To be sure, any investment has risk, and $400 million in state funds is no small sum. But as we've seen in the years since the state in 1997 started anteing up millions for what started out as the rather wonky-sounding Center for Advanced Thin Film Technology at UAlbany, the right tech investments can reap jobs, private investment and prestige. It's less about trying to read a crystal ball than being smart about silicon.

It also demonstrates how higher education in New York can both be on the cutting edge of research and serve as an economic engine. This is, as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver describes it, all about the "engineering of matter on an atomic scale."

It's exotic, futuristic sounding stuff, but with very real, practical value in the here and now.

THE ISSUE:

New York's investment in UAlbany's nanotech college nets a major private investment.

THE STAKES:

It's an example of how public investments in technology and education can pay off.