January 11 2017

The Business Review reports on CEG study on the top Northeast metros for university R&D spending — Albany ranks 4th

Albany Business Review

By: Shannon Sweeney

From SUNY Polytechnic Institute to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the Albany, New York area is a hub for university research and development.

The area ranked fourth out of 20 Northeastern metropolitan areas for university research and development spending, according to analysis released this week by the Albany-based Center for Economic Growth. The analysis uses data from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, a group within the federal government’s National Science Foundation.

About $574 million, on average, was spent in the Albany area on university research and development from 2011 to 2015. That money supported about 3,700 researchers, primarily geared toward engineering and life science projects. The majority of the area’s funding came from the federal government and private-sector businesses.

The data includes information from Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady and Schoharie counties, also known as the Albany-Schenectady-Troy metro area.

The No. 1 metropolitan statistical area on the list was Ithaca, where Cornell University is located. The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and New Haven, Connecticut, areas ranked second and third, respectively. Penn State University and the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, which houses Penn State’s medical school, were the biggest spenders near Harrisburg. In New Haven, the top spender was Yale University.

The rankings factor in the number of workers in a given metro area, the gross metropolitan product, a measure of the goods and services produced in a metro region and the total university research and development expenditures. The rankings are based on three factors — university spending per worker, spending per $1,000 GMP and total university research and development expenditures.

This system puts Albany ahead of Boston, Philadelphia and New York City, even though their total R&D expenditures were higher.

“We’ve always viewed the Capital Region as this beacon of the upstate economy, but there are other Northeastern areas that are competing with us,” said Andrew Kennedy, the CEO and president of the Center for Economic Growth, an Albany nonprofit economic development organization. “We as a region need to continue to invest in academic research and development spending.”

University research is vital to the economy of the Albany area, home to more than 20 colleges and universities, added Kennedy. Local schools conduct research on a wide variety of topics, including clean technology, nanotechnology and biotechnology.

“It proves the point and the conversations we’ve been having for the last 10 to 15 years,” Kennedy said. “We’ve established ourselves as a technology hub.”

In 2015, four schools — the University at Albany, Albany Medical College, SUNY Poly and Rensselaer — accounted for 98 percent of research and development spending in the Albany area.

Kennedy said in an email having four schools account for most of the research spending means “we can adapt when the economy changes due to market or political conditions.”

“Research and development spending is important to promote job growth and to make Albany more competitive nationally, Kennedy said.

Jonathan Dordick, the vice president for research at Rensselaer, also talked to the Albany Business Review about the importance of research for universities.

“As a university, if you’re not doing research, your mission is quite constrained,” said Dordick. “Our students are not only getting the basic education in their discipline, but they’re getting exposed to real-world problems.”

Dordick said students from Rensselaer go on to work at places like IBM, General Electric and GlobalFoundries in Malta because of their research experience.

Schools are also looking to keep more students in the area after graduation.

“Students can graduate and potentially live where they went to school,” said Jim Dias, the vice president for research at UAlbany. “We see that as part of our mission – not only to train students to get a job … but also try to retain them to the region so they can do their work in our community.”

The school that spent the most in the area was SUNY Poly, with $290.6 million in 2015. It was the nation’s top spender on research and development for metallurgical and material engineering.

Nate Cady, a SUNY Poly associate professor of nanobioscience, received $1.2 million from the Air Force Research Lab to create chip prototypes in Albany’s NanoTech Complex. He said the money also helps build relationships between Albany schools.

“The type of work that we do on these circuits has benefited collaborations and enabled projects between the institutions, and that snowballs into bringing more dollars to the area,” Cady said.

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