2003 Update from the
Legislative Commission on

Science and

Sheldon Silver, Speaker • Adriano Espaillat, Chair • December 2003

Restoring STEP and CSTEP

Despite more than a dozen years of successfully helping disadvantaged youth acquire the skills and training necessary for careers in science and technology, the Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) were both slated for elimination in the Governor’s proposed budget this year.

CSTEP assists minority and economically disadvantaged undergraduate and graduate students in completing preprofessional/professional programs of study that lead to licensure and careers in scientific, technical and health-related fields. CSTEP programs often reach out to high school students encouraging them to apply and enroll in college. CSTEP has served 57,761 students since its inception in 1987. Over 51% of CSTEP graduates attend graduate and professional school programs and pursue employment in CSTEP targeted fields.

Assemblymember Adriano Espaillat moderates the roundtable on technology in the schools. (See article, “Agenda for the Future...” for more information).

STEP assists minority and economically disadvantaged secondary school students in acquiring the skills needed to pursue collegiate study in scientific, technical and health-related fields. STEP typically provides tutoring, outreach to parents, visits to workplaces and postsecondary institutions, and counseling regarding career and educational planning. STEP has served 86,000 seventh through twelfth grade students since 1986. Of this total, 88% matriculate college and 57% pursue STEP related programs of study in science, mathematics, technical and licensed fields.

An assessment by external consultants, MC Squared, concluded with this observation:

“These programs have done what many regard as all but impossible – leading highly at-risk students to excel in society’s most demanding and rewarding professions. The programs, their students, and the state deserve stable and abiding support.” (Evaluation Report: STEP and CSTEP 1986-1996)

The Assembly restored funding for both programs.

Message from the Chair

Dear Friends:

This Legislative session, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver appointed me as the new Chair of the Assembly Legislative Commission on Science and Technology. As Chair, I am committed to advancing scientific and technologically driven economic development opportunities in New York State.

The Commission this year helped support several important Assembly majority initiatives including measures to enhance our schools, stimulate both large and small technology-driven businesses, improve workforce technology skills and training programs, and advance both private and public sector research and development. It is essential that every citizen, from the very youngest to the oldest be scientifically and technologically literate so that they may fully participate in and enjoy the benefits of our increasing technologically driven society.

The Commission, since its creation in 1979, is dedicated to providing the Legislature and the public with up-to-date information on the complex technological and scientific issues facing our society today. The Commission carries out its work by conducting in-depth and short-term studies, providing quick answers to specific inquiries, holding hearings, conferences, and roundtable discussions, and developing legislation. Currently, the Commission is working to:

  • further scientific and technological literacy in students from pre-K through college and in the community at large;
  • foster working relationships with business leaders, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, community and local developers, and academics experienced in scientific research, discovery, development, and financing in order to promote further economic development; and,
  • stimulate and nurture the State’s numerous technology based industries and investigate the impact of science and technology on the economy, workforce, and education.

In order for the Commission to be the most effective, the needs of New York State citizens must be heard. It is with your help that it is possible for me to be a strong advocate for progressive public policy in the area of science and technology. Please feel free to contact me with concerns or suggestions at either my district or Albany offices or contact the Commission staff directly at: (518) 455-5081, e-mail scitech@assembly.state.ny.us, or NYS Assembly Commission on Science and Technology, Agency Building 4, Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12248.

Adriano Espaillat, Chair
Legislative Commission on
Science and Technology

Adriano Espaillat, Chair
Legislative Commission on Science and Technology
Room 652 LOB • Albany, NY 12248 • 518.455.5807
210 Sherman Avenue, Suite A • New York, NY 10034 • 212.544.2278

Biotechnology Hearing at Columbia University’s Audubon Biomedical Science and Technology Park

On April 11th the Commission held a public hearing on The Future of Biotechnology in Metropolitan New York at Columbia University in New York City. Witnesses representing research institutions and the biotechnology industry described the state of the industry and how it can be strengthened.

Biotechnology, understood as the “process of using living organisms to develop breakthrough drug products, vaccines and genetically engineered food products,” is a vitally important growth industry. In 2001 over 5,400 people statewide were employed in this sector, with a payroll of approximately $6 billion. It is noteworthy that earnings per job in this industry average $63,000 compared to a Statewide average of $45,000 in other industries. Clearly, biotechnology holds great promise for the State’s and its citizens’ fiscal health.

Given the metropolitan area’s rich research and development environment, it seems logical that this industry would flourish. For example, the City has 25 major academic research and medical centers and 175 hospitals, research centers and laboratories. Its institutions are competitive with those in California and Massachusetts in terms of the level of scientific achievement and quality of research capabilities, and ahead of regions in other states experiencing significant biotech job growth.

The State’s workforce is also top-notch. New York City ranks 1st in the number of employees in the Life Sciences according to 1997 Census data. In fact, among top biotech metropolitan areas, New York City and Buffalo accounted for 25% of the life sciences research and development workforce nationwide.

Yet in spite of what appears to be a very strong foundation, the Commission’s research has shown that the New York City area is behind comparable regions in other states in developing a “Biotech Cluster.” California and Massachusetts dominate the biotech industry with the New York metropolitan region ranking third in terms of the number of biotech companies.

Witnesses at the hearing suggested the following strategies to nurture the biotechnology industry in New York:

The primary need in New York City is for affordable space — the State needs to continue to financially support the development of such space especially to assure the completion of the several projects now underway.

One of the most important resources in the greater Metropolitan area is its research base – the State needs to more generously support efforts that facilitate the recruitment and retention of researchers from principal investigators to graduate students.

In the past there has been a lack of collaboration among NYC institutions or adequate coordination within the greater Metropolitan region – the State should take a more active strategic approach to the development of biotechnology.

Supporting Legislation

In response to concerns expressed at the Biotechnology hearing about the continuing need for new start-up companies to attract capital, and in discussions with experts, the Commission developed new legislation to encourage individual investors to support new technology firms (A.7910) or “NYSEEDS”.

In general, funding for the seed phase of early-stage technology business development is difficult to secure, and in New York State, this gap has been particularly large. During these uncertain economic conditions investors are especially reluctant to take risks. In addition, markets for allocating risk capital to early-stage technology ventures are notoriously inefficient. Information on investment opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors is difficult to find. The ability for investors in “seed phase” early-stage technology ventures to fully achieve appropriate returns from their investments is limited; and many other unknowns limit investment potential. It is vital to encourage the formation of new companies that can subsequently compete for traditional venture capital investments.

A.7910 would enact the “NYSEEDS” tax credit designed to encourage “angel” investors to direct their capital to start-up New York companies. The tax credit would help investors maximize their investment returns, and stimulate the formation of desperately needed seed capital at the crucial early phase of business development, generating high value job opportunities for New Yorkers. The bill is under review by the Ways and Means Committee.

Other Commission Initiatives

As part of its charge to advance science and technology in the State, the Commission co-sponsored, along with Committees on Governmental Operations and Labor, the Legislative Commission on Skills Development and Career Education and the Legislative Task Force on Women’s Issues, three Roundtables exploring the role of Women in Technology. The roundtables were held in Utica on March 20, 2003, in Albany on April 15, 2003, and in New York City on October 9, 2003.

The Roundtables brought together experts from educational institutions, computer and technology industries, policy organizations and the not-for-profit sector to discuss the gender gap in science and technology and how to increase women’s participation in these fields. With future economic growth in the state coming from areas such as biotechnology, new media, computer software and hardware development, New York will need a technology-savvy workforce with the participation of all its citizens. The continued under-representation of women in these fields risks continued disparity in income between men and women.

Participation in the Roundtables has been phenomenal. We have learned a tremendous amount about the innovative, creative programs in many different sectors to encourage girls and women to enter and persist in science and technology fields. The Task Force, along with the other Committees and Commissions involved, is exploring legislation to encourage further development in this area.

In addition, the Commission joined with the Task Force on University- Industry Cooperation and the Legislative Commission on Skills Development and Career Education in Albany on April 28 in exploring the role of Community Colleges in developing the State’s workforce in technology careers.

Discussants felt that the Legislature could help ‘market’ community colleges themselves – i.e., make it clear through policy decisions that these entities have a vital role to play not only in academics, but also in skills training. Along with the Task Force, the Commission will work to determine what role the Legislature may play in making it easier for community colleges to work successfully as partners with industry, labor, not-for-profits, four-year institutions, and government in high tech economic development.

Agenda for the Future: Enhancing the Education and Technology Nexus

One of the Commission’s major initiatives in the coming year is to explore the synergy between technology and education.

The Commission on Science and Technology, together with the Commission on Skills Development and Career Education, and the Black, Puetro-Rican and Hispanic Caucus held its first roundtable at Columbia University on November 13th. Participants from the New York City schools, the State Education Department, higher education and experts from the non-profit and private sector all contributed to a lively discussion about how the role of technology in the public schools can best be developed and sustained.

The Commission will be further exploring some of the ideas raised at the roundtable, and will continue to try to develop creative ways in which to enhance technology and scientific literacy in the schools.

Early in 2004, the Commission plans on a second roundtable in Albany to discuss Career Education in Science and Technology. This initiative will culminate with a third technology and education event in New York City later in the year.

For additional information, contact:
NYS Assembly Commission on Science and Technology
Agency Building 4 • Empire State Plaza • Albany, NY 12248
518. 455.5081 •

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