Tech Campus May Increase Ithaca Campus’ ‘Visibility’

February 6, 2012 12:00 am0 comments
David Marten

Despite concerns that the tech campus will steer resources away from Cornell’s Ithaca campus, administrators speaking at a public forum Friday said that the recently approved institution has already begun to strengthen the University’s main campus.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that Cornell won a yearlong competition to build the new engineering and technology campus — which will be completed in 2037 — on Dec. 19. Daniel Huttenlocher, dean of the faculty of Computing and Information Science, said that  the University hopes the tech campus will make Cornell more “relevant” in NYC.

“I think the goals for the 50-year time horizon are really to transform Cornell from what is currently, primarily, recognized for being outstanding but rural and essentially isolated … to a university [that] broadly plays a leadership role both in an urban and rural context,” Huttenlocher said.

University administrators also ­­announced that two key administrative posts for the tech campus — which was officially named CornellNYC Tech — had been filled. 

At the forum, Provost Kent Fuchs announced that President David Skorton had tapped Huttenlocher to be the academic leader of the new campus. In addition, Cathy Dove, associate dean of administration in the College of Engineering, was named the Chief Operating Officer of the new facility.

Lance Collins, dean of the College of Engineering, said that he would measure the success of the new campus by how well it is able to assimilate with University’s Ithaca campus.

“I think that it’s extremely important that there be a sense of this being a single entity, single university, that has these complimentary features,” Collins said. “There’s this campus that’s very frenetic and busy and all about commercializing and economic development, and then there’s this more tranquil, peaceful place where you do maybe the deeper thinking.”

In addition to benefiting the Ithaca campus, the tech campus will also fulfill Bloomberg’s vision of a hub of innovation and technological development, Fuchs, who moderated the forum, said.

“The leadership of New York City, and we here at Cornell, believe that [New York] is positioned to be the tech capital of the world. To do this, you need leadership in scholarships and thought. You need innovation that results in some discipline — in this case, tech,” Fuchs said.

According to Collins,  CornellNYC Tech will focus on developing new marketable technology. He said that technology coming out of the campus from startups and faculty research would have a significant impact on NYC’s economy.

“This campus is really going to be focused on commercialization, plugging us into this commercial world like there’s no tomorrow,” Collins said.

According to Fuchs, the campus and the startups founded by its graduates could create between 10,000 and 100,000 jobs in the NYC area.

“The key part of all of this is to graduate students that will drive innovation, that will start companies and be a part of the New York City ecosystem,” Fuchs said.

Fuchs and the other administrators made clear that they believe the tech campus will ultimately be a boon to the Ithaca campus, as well by leading to increased fundraising and visibility for Cornell and Tompkins County as a whole.

“Our full expectation is that our current campaign for the [Ithaca] campus will actually achieve a higher level than it would without the [tech] campus,” Fuchs said.

The University’s inaugural Startup Career Fair, held Wednesday, is one of the clear indications that the tech campus is already having an effect on Cornell’s visibility, according to Collins. Of the more than 40 companies that attended the fair, 30 had never been to Ithaca before, he said.

“It was the most energy I have every seen around just innovation and startups, and this was right here in Ithaca. And I don’t think that would have happened had we not had the New York City campus. The New York City campus is creating this buzz for Cornell,” Collins said.

Huttenlocher said that a meeting held the previous weekend in Washington, D.C., between himself, Skorton and David Kappos, under secretary of commerce for intellectual property, also showed that Cornell had increased its visibility only seven weeks after winning the competition.

“I think it is indicative of the kind of visibility that we’re getting here on the national as well New York City stage, and frankly on the international stage,” Huttenlocher said.

Dove said businesses have already begun to contact the University about working together both in NYC and Ithaca.

“Since we’ve won this thing, we have had a number of potential corporate partners within the last seven weeks that are reaching out to us … They’re already saying, ‘how can we work with you?’ And that’s here in Ithaca. So Ithaca is already in very powerful ways being impacted,” Dove said.

Huttenlocher also said CornellNYC Tech presented the University with a new opportunity to work with businesses to develop NYC’s economy.

“We’re offering a different vision of technology; a vision of technology that’s really driven by the industries that it’s serving, as opposed to technology for disruption’s sake, which has been the model of technology in this country and internationally over the last couple decades,” Huttenlocher said. “So I think what’s powerful about that is that it expands the different kinds of technology sectors that we’re going to have in the country.”

Collins agreed, saying that the University could bring business and academia together to create economic growth unlike any other institution in the nation.

“In some sense, I think this is almost the newest experiment of its kind in terms of bringing the university and the business communities together,” he said.

Collins noted that differing mission of the NYC Tech Campus could provide new opportunities for innovation. 

“The Ithaca campus is a traditional academic campus. [The NYC Campus] allows us to launch something with a completely new and different mission — this sort of economic development mission,” Collins said. “We can be maybe more creative than ever before … while still having the satisfaction of knowing our traditional disciplines are well nurtured and cared for on our home campus.”

The Executive Committee of the University Board of Trustees will convene on Feb. 15 to approve Huttenlocher and Dove’s appointments to the new posts, according to Fuchs.