VESTAL, N.Y. — Researchers at Binghamton University are working on developments in areas such as solar energy. But they don’t always have the resources they need to take their ideas to the next level.
“They might not be ready to get venture capital, but are beyond the point where they can be funded by small proposals and that’s where this idea really helps. It would bridge them to the point where they can get enough data and build prototypes that can be used to get venture capital,” said BU Interim Vice President of Research.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand visited Binghamton University Monday to announce new legislation that could help BU and other universities like it. It’s called The America Innovates Act. The legislation would allow innovators and researchers to take their ideas from inside the lab and turn them into marketable products and companies.
“It’s clear we need to do more to bridge the disconnect and provide our scientists with the business skills and funding to get these kinds of ideas off the ground,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
The bill would create an American Innovation Bank Funding through that American Innovation Bank would allow universities to do things such as strengthen their “proof of concept funds,” test products in an industrial setting, or build business incubators. The legislation would also provide business training for graduate students in science.
“So basically when we were touring these new solar cells, what they will do over the next year is take that proof of concept and prepare it for commercialization. If they have funding to create a business plan and to model how they can actually make money with this new breakthrough that would allow them to become a business faster,” said Gillibrand.
Something that Gillibrand and other local leaders say would help the growth of high tech jobs in the Southern Tier and the country in the future.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand spent Thursday morning at the UAlbany Biotech Park, where she extolled the facility and held it up as an example of what can be done elsewhere if Congress manages to pass the America Innovates Act, which among other things would set up an “American Innovation Bank” to help universities and other research institutions find the seed money for the initial stages of development of new products and processes.
The legislative bill tracker GovTrack.us gives the bill a 1 percent chance of passing the GOP-controlled House, where it was introduced by Rep. Rush Holt, D-NJ.
Gillibrand made the same pitch a month ago at SUNY Stony Brook.
Here’s the full press release:
After touring the University at Albany Research and Development (R&D) Biotech Park on the East Campus, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, joined by University at Albany President George Philip and Dr. Chris Fasano, Director of Research and Development at the Neural Stem Cell Institute, today announced legislation to spur the growth of new science and technology jobs in the Capital Region and across New York. The America Innovates Act would help scientists and researchers secure valuable resources and training to turn new discoveries into marketable products, new high-tech companies, and jobs.
“New York is home to some of the world’s brightest minds and best ideas to grow our economy,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This common-sense legislation will help develop scientific breakthroughs into cutting edge businesses and new jobs. Providing our scientists and students with practical business skills will go a long way towards creating high-tech industries and building the next generation of innovative leaders. This is the future of our economy, and we need to make sure it starts right here in the Capital Region.”
“The America Innovates Act will provide the critical resources and infrastructure support to move University research and discovery from bench to preclinical studies and ultimately to improved health care. In so doing, it will strengthen and expand our innovation economy,” said University at Albany President George M. Philip. “We commend Senator Gillibrand’s vision and leadership in recognizing the critical need to develop programs that advance the translation of university research into economic opportunity.”
“The America Innovates Act will focus resources on one of the most critical stages of this commercialization process,” said F. Michael Tucker, President and CEO of the Center for Economic Growth. “The Center for Economic Growth is pleased to support this Act and those who, like CEG, are dedicated to the acceleration and growth of an innovation-based economy and new high tech jobs and enterprises.”
There are often few resources available to help university researchers across the country translate their scientific discoveries into marketable products and companies. Many of our nation’s scientists also do not receive the training needed to launch their theoretical breakthroughs into commercial, entrepreneurial successes, causing a gap between scientific research and useful products for people, new businesses, and jobs. Critical discoveries, such as the laser beam, took years to develop into part of an everyday product like the barcode scanner.
The America Innovates Act would spur growth of high-tech jobs in the Capital Region and across the nation by making capital available for innovators and by training students to turn their discoveries into products, companies, and jobs. The bill would create an “American Innovation Bank” to help universities and other research institutions establish and grow the development and commercialization of initial discoveries, making potential products more attractive to state, local and private investment.
Under this funding stream, universities would be able to create or strengthen their “proof of concept” funds, aimed to help researchers prove that their research can be practically and concretely used. Once proved practically, investors are much more likely interested in risking capital on the commercialization of research, thereby increasing the chances that the idea would turn into a new business or create new jobs at an existing company.
Universities would be able to use grants to hire additional staff for specific experiments, purchase testing equipment, test products in an industrial setting, clinical development, access expert advice in business strategy and patent and regulatory laws. Funds could also be used to build business incubators or other facilities that would support researchers.
To help build the next generation of innovative leaders, this legislation would also provide business training for graduate students in science, training students in intellectual property protection, commercialization and product development. Under this bill, existing scientific student programs, such as the UAlbany’s Student Venture Fund, would be expanded to allow students to advance new scientific discoveries and technologies for commercialization. Universities would also be encouraged to develop professional science masters programs and graduate degrees that will provide students with the skills they need to pursue careers in industry.
Dedicated to helping new innovative companies grow, Senator Gillibrand praised University at Albany’s R&D Biotech Park on the East Campus for serving as a model for universities and research institutions to help turn basic science discoveries into products. Since 1995, the University has worked to transform the East Campus from an abandoned pharmaceutical complex into a thriving biomedical research hub with more than 1,000 researchers, company employees, faculty and students. Today, the campus, which includes 350,000 square feet of high-tech laboratory, support and office space, is home to Albany Molecular, Taconic, Regeneron, the Neural Stem Cell Institute, Albany College of Pharmacy laboratories, the Gen*NY*sis Cancer Research Center, the Center for Functional Genomics, and nine small technology companies.