Task Force on University-Industry Cooperation Public Hearing

February 28, 2006
On February 27, 2006, Assemblymember Magnarelli, chair of the Task Force on University-Industry Cooperation, held a hearing in Albany, New York, on The Role of New York State in Commercializing Research & Development Innovations. The hearing was co-sponsored by Assemblymembers Joseph D. Morelle, chair of the Subcommittee on Manufacturing, and Adele Cohen, chairwoman of the Commission on Science and Technology. The purpose of the hearing was to identify and articulate a strategy for assisting the commercialization of innovations resulting from State-sponsored research and development (R&D) conducted at research institutions throughout New York.

In recent years, New York State has invested well over one billion dollars in university-based R&D at institutions throughout New York. Testimony was received from over 40 witnesses and there were many interesting and insightful observations and recommendations focusing on funding, structure, space, business assistance, entrepreneurial programs, and workforce development.

Concern was expressed by many witnesses that the State does not invest enough in the early, start-up stage, where these funds are most deficient, and that the smallest businesses, those with the least amount of funding available, are least able to take advantage of federal investments which require a dollar-for-dollar match. Overall, witnesses urged the State to provide seed or gap funding for early stage development, tax credits for investors who take the risk of investing in this early, unproven stage, and to utilize the State Retirement Fund in a more direct way for this crucial period of business development.

Another concern was the absence of a coherent structure for commercialization assistance that is, no single process or entry point for services, and no consistent, uniform set of policies and directives for the lab-to-market continuum. Recommendations included establishing an Office of Technology Commercialization, and a one-stop approach.

The crucial need for space was also addressed, as was the importance of business and entrepreneurial assistance. Several witnesses recommended using the regional Small Business Development Centers and university schools of management and business to provide services, and strengthening the entrepreneurial climate in the State through entrepreneurial boot camps, business plan contests, coaching & mentoring.

Finally, the crucial area of workforce development was discussed by most, if not all, of the witnesses. Assemblymembers heard, for example, that doctorates in science & engineering have declined since 1988, and that the U.S. produces approximately 70,000 engineers per year compared to India and China, which produce 10 times that number. In addition, less than 6% of 24 year olds in this country earned a B.S. in science, ranking this country 25th in the world. In addition to enhancing science, math and engineering education, it was strongly recommended that education include relevant commercialization-related programs especially in regulatory affairs, quality assurance and control, and good laboratory practices. Further suggestions included creating forgivable student loans for those who agree to stay and work in the State for a prescribed period and funding targeted workforce training in cooperation with regional initiatives, including Centers of Excellence, and growth businesses; and investing in education and retraining with particular emphasis on emerging science and engineering fields.

Reinforced by the Hearing testimony, Assemblymember Magnarelli and his colleagues remain committed to supporting existing and future legislative and programmatic efforts regarding commercialization in New York State. For more information on the Hearing, contact the Task Force at (518) 455-4884.