January 12 2021
Research & Development

Capital Region’s Academic R&D Footprint Spans 1.5M Square Feet

Skidmore set to double R&D space with CIS, Ualbany preps ETEC for June opening

The Capital Region’s academic research and development footprint spanned 1.5 million square feet in 2019 and promises to stretch farther with several building projects in the pipeline. Most notably among those developments are the University at Albany’s ETEC and Skidmore College’s Center for Integrated Sciences (CIS), which will double the college’s R&D footprint, according to a Center for Economic Growth analysis of new data from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES).

“We know that nearly every major issue we deal with as a society demands interdisciplinary exploration. The new and renovated R&D space in CIS will foster meaningful, impactful connections among the sciences, arts, humanities and social sciences,” said Skidmore President Marc C. Conner.

“As a major public research institution that is home to more than 17,500 students and one of the Albany area’s largest employers, it is critically important that we provide our campus community with the infrastructure necessary to foster innovation and success,” said UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez. “By continuing to increase the Capital Region’s academic research and development footprint, it not only creates new pipelines for opportunity, but also strengthens the region’s reputation, influence and impact around the globe.”

“Under the leadership of President Shirley Ann Jackson, Rensselaer has invested nearly $1.25 billion to create world-class research and development facilities since 2001. Rensselaer has built transformative platforms in biotechnology, advanced materials, high performance computing, data analytics, artificial intelligence, and the intersection between the arts, media and technology. This investment anchors research, education, and collaborations with industry, foundations and the state and federal governments, to help foster economic growth across the region and nationally,” said Robert Hull, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s acting vice president for research.

R&D Fields

In 2019, the eight-county region had 1.497 million square feet of R&D space across seven universities and colleges, with nearly three quarters of it (73.0 percent) being devoted to life sciences and engineering research. Other fields with swaths of R&D space in the region were the physical sciences (6.3 percent), social sciences (5.8 percent) and atmospheric sciences (3.7 percent).


R&D Institutions

At 605,000 square feet, SUNY Polytechnic Institute had the most R&D space, with 202,000 square feet devoted to life sciences R&D and 403,000 square feet devoted to engineering R&D1. SUNY Poly ranked 19th for engineering R&D space among all universities. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute had 252,000 square feet, of which 201,000 square feet was devoted to engineering R&D. Among private institutions, RPI ranked seventh for engineering R&D space.  Other institutions included The University at Albany (195,000 square feet), Albany Medical College (172,000 square feet), Union College (120,000 square feet), Skidmore College (78,000 square feet) and the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (26,000 square feet).


The NCSES report provides a snapshot of the region’s evolving university R&D footprint. For example, in January 2020 Union opened its Integrated Science and Engineering Complex, which features 23,000 square feet of R&D space. In November 2019, Applied Materials opened at SUNY Polytechnic Institute a Material Engineering Technology Accelerator (META) Center. Also, in February 2019, IBM launched its AI Hardware Center at SUNY Poly.

Skidmore last summer finished the North Wing of its CIS, which will house all 10 of the college’s science departments as well as a state-of-the-art microscopy imaging center and a greenhouse. CIS’s North Wing opened to faculty and staff last fall and the building is scheduled for completion in 2024. Upon CIS’s completion, Skidmore will have a total of 164,000 square feet of R&D space that will be used for both teaching and research. (86,000 square feet of new space and 78,000 square feet of renovated space).

In June, UAlbany will open ETEC, which will house the first-in-the-nation College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity, as well as the University’s Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, the nation’s most advanced weather-detection system, New York State Mesonet. There will be chemistry research labs, the Department of Environmental and Sustainable Engineering, and various business development and technology transfer offices inside as well. ETEC, at the southwest corner of the Harriman Campus, will house 87,000 square feet of R&D space.

New Construction, Repairs & Renovations

Between 2018 and 2021, local colleges and universities plan to start or started developing 165,000 square feet of new R&D space. Of that amount, 79,000 was planned at UAlbany, with 12,000 for engineering, 50,000 for atmospheric sciences, and 18,000 for physical sciences.

In 2019, Skidmore’s R&D footprint was 78,000 square feet. Skidmore planned to start work on 45,000 square feet of R&D in 2018-2019, and 41,000 more square feet was planned to start in 2020-2021. The total cost of the new construction at UAlbany was $58.4 million and $52.7 million at Skidmore.

Between 2018 and 2021, local colleges and universities also plan to start or started $114.5 million in repairs and renovations to R&D. That included $66.3 million at UAlbany2, $25.7 million at SUNY Poly, $6.8 million at RPI and $15 million at Union.


1 NCSES reported SUNY Poly having 451,000 square feet of engineering R&D space, but the university stated the correct figure is 401,000 square feet.

2 The start of the $32.263 million in engineering repairs and renovations planned for 2018-2019 has been postponed to a 2022-2023 start.

CEG Initiatives

CEG and its Business Growth Solutions (BGS) unit leverage the Capital Region’s R&D assets to do the following:

Promote the region around the world at industry conferences;

Improve businesses’ access to labs at facilities, such as those at SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and others affiliated with Innovate 518, a University at Albany-led collaborative effort of Capital Region incubators, accelerators, and entrepreneurial service providers.

Accelerate commercialization by leveraging tech scouting, gathering technology-driven market intelligence, engaging Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR) for testing and development;

Develop prototypes with its Stratasys F270 3D printer at the Tech Valley Center of Gravity or provide hand-on access to it;

Assist in the preparation of grant applications for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and Small Business Technology Transfer Program; and

Identify potential investors and providing venture pitch coaching through the VentureB series.

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