April 3, 2002

C.U. Hires First Economic Director

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Paul L. Carey took the helm on February 20 as Cornell’s first formal director of the Office of Economic Development, replacing a part-time independent liaison.

Cornell’s Office of Economic Development hired Carey to manage technology movement from research to the private sector.

“I came in with an undefined state that still remains [in that state],” Carey admitted.

The Office is specifically responsible for overseeing technology transport and industrial outreach that embraces a transition of new advances from the lab or research arena to the private sector.

By commercializing “intellectual resources,” technology is transferred as funding is attracted from outside companies.

“There aren’t many Ivy Leagues that have an Ag school or a food science division, which I find to be extremely impressive. The idea of my job, helping the community, was what I found attractive. There are a lot of untapped resources here and Cornell needs to get up to speed,” Carey added.

Overall, Carey is excited about the position and views it as an opportunity to begin a new chapter in the history of economic development at Cornell.

The Office essentially behaves as a central referral center for companies that “don’t know where they want to go when they come to Cornell,” according to Carey, who has had experience in planning, negotiating and closing important financial and research transactions in the past, working with academic centers, corporations and government agencies — securing investment capital.

Industrial outreach researchers play a crucial role for the Office and can be found throughout Cornell centers and departments.

“My job is to galvanize them, making sure that they cooperate with each other and that we all have a common Cornell agenda,” Carey said.

If General Electric were to visit the Department of Chemistry at Cornell, Carey believes researchers should refer them to Life Sciences or elsewhere if the corporation has not found a technological fit in the research. “If GE says, ‘We’re looking for robotics technology,’ they should be referred immediately to the industrial outreach specialist in electrical engineering,” Carey remarked.

The process begins with the funding of research, as the Office continues to increase its University-wide revenue. Carey admitted that he will be visiting campus buildings to determine what is in the works and what has already been developed.

Carey describes his job as having three main legs. The first deals with corporations, including recruiting them and matching their interests with appropriate research. Carey pinpointed this as the area where Cornell has even more room to increase sponsored funding, encouraging professors and other research specialists to work with these corporations and understand that they will not lose their years of hard work when they accept a grant from a corporate sponsor.

The public sector occupies the second part of Carey’s job, wherein he works directly with local and state governments to maximize any research funding that can be obtained from the state.

“There are [state and federal] organizations that fall into this sector, including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and NASA, among others,” Carey noted.

The third leg of his position deals with securing company investment capital. In order for the actual technology to transfer smoothly, specific regulatory laws exist, according to Carey.

Patented technology developed at Cornell remains tangible property owned by the University, licensed to a company that can use it best. These patents protect new innovations and intellectual property. Without a patent, it is unlikely that a company will touch any piece of new technology, according to Carey.

He also added that it might take up to 18 months to negotiate a big deal as the financial stakes increase.

According to figures from July 1, 2000 to June 30, 2001, federal-sponsored research accounts for nearly $250 million, while Carey plans his focus on increasing corporate sponsored research, representing nearly $14 million.

All federal moneys are distributed between endowed, statutory and medical divisions at Cornell, with total research amounting to $415 million.

The Cornell Research Foundation functions as a traditional technology transfer system, netting millions, according to Carey.

The initial stages begin with research once it is developed to a point where it has real world applicability. The Cornell Research Foundation then works with graduate students, professors and other researchers to patent new innovations, bringing together research collaboration with a company outside of Cornell.

“I will collaborate with the CRF to get these [entrepreneurs] in here and help them build a place in Ithaca that is financially sound,” Carey said. To that end, he works with the county and the city, specifically the Tompkins County Area Development group, which has created jobs that continue to drive the economy, according to Carey.

To further Cornell’s research mission, the Office is increasing and diversifying research funding from outside sources, corporate and public.

Carey earned a B.S. degree in chemical engineering at Lafayette College and an M.A. degree in biomedical engineering at University of Virginia.

“After working as a chemical engineer, I was surprised to find that being a biomedical engineer was a natural extension,” he said.

Carey has worked in medicine for many years. “At Ascent Pharmaceuticals, we dealt with pediatrics. Medicine for children has largely been ignored for a good chunk of history. It [is essential that the medicine] is formulated appropriately for a child,” Carey noted.

He has also dealt with the public sector in Boston and with federal agencies. Carey said that his highest priority right now is to deal with coaching industrial outreach researchers, hoping that they will understand what he has been hired to do.

Archived article by Chris Westgate