Citing the need to break down “major barriers” between industry and academia in New York State, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) tapped President David Skorton earlier this month to help the state develop businesses.
Skorton will be joined by Jim Simons, a mathematician and investor, and Tim Killeen, president of the Research Foundation for the State University of New York, in the initiative — one Cuomo hopes will “accelerate the commercialization of good ideas and the creation of new businesses to take them to market.”
As the “organizing members” of the venture, Skorton, Simons and Killeen will study “regulatory barriers that slow or thwart commercialization efforts,” Cuomo said in his Jan. 9 State of the State Address.
The trio has also been tasked with building collaborations among key players in startup and tech work: academics, venture capitalists, business leaders, patent lawyers and entrepreneurs, according to Cuomo.
Cuomo said that Skorton, Simons and Killeen’s work will help expedite academic commercialization, or the process of delivering ideas from laboratories and universities to the marketplace.
Cuomo’s vision of harnessing universities to drive economic growth aligns closely with the image Skorton has transposed onto Cornell’s NYC Tech Campus — an institution that Skorton has said will forge “connectivity between people and their ideas, [and] between researchers and business people.”
In one indication of these new relationships, the University has partnered with the U.S. Department of Commerce to guide tech campus students through the patent process. Cornell is also pairing each student with a mentor from the New York City technology industry to inculcate business skills in its student body.
The tech campus will not be completed until 2037. But Cuomo has urged New York to act now to nurture growth in the state’s technology industry.
While places like Silicon Valley, Cambridge, Mass. and Austin, Tex. have developed “highly successful university-driven economies” using academic commercialization, New York has fallen behind in harnessing its universities, Cuomo said.
Several “troubling” facts show the necessity of boosting academic innovation and entrepreneurship in New York, he added.
Although New York universities rank second nationally in annual research spending, just 4.6 percent of universities’ research spending is sponsored by industry, according to Cuomo. The state lays claim to just 4 percent of the nation’s venture capital investment, compared to California’s 47 percent. The state also houses only 11 of the world’s 500 fastest-growing technology companies.
With competition for industry stiffening, New York cannot afford to keep lagging behind other states in tech and entrepreneurship development, Cuomo said.
“The knowledge-based economy and global competition make it more important than ever that New York State becomes the leader in innovation and new business creation,” Cuomo said.
In addition to encouraging academia and industry to collaborate, Cuomo unveiled several other initiatives he hopes will drive the growth of startups in New York.
Cuomo said he will launch a competition to create or designate 10 high-tech innovation incubators — “Innovation Hot Spots” — in the state. Each Hot Spot will be a tax-free zone, and startup companies that emerge from the zone will not be obligated to pay taxes for the first five years of their existence.
Startups created in the Hot Spot zones will also have access to office space, technical assistance, and legal and accounting services, as part of the state’s incentives for entrepreneurship.
“These incubators will help to foster innovation by offering inventors and entrepreneurs a low-cost and supportive environment in which to work,” according to Cuomo.
The state will pay $50 million to fund the Hot Spots and other initiatives aimed at encouraging startup development — money Cuomo said he hopes will allow small startups to overcome hurdles to staying in business.
The funds will provide incentives for “successful start-ups to stay in the state and grow, including small ‘angel’ investments to overcome the ‘valley of death’ issue many of these companies face,” Cuomo said.