Zack Hutchins
Director of Communications

For Release — Wednesday, January 31, 2001


ALBANY—Because tomorrow's economy will be driven by new technologies that emerge from research institutions, New York should invest $1 billion over five years in high-tech research universities and government research laboratories, The Business Council told lawmakers in testimony today.

The goal of the investment would be to foster new research partnerships among these institutions and New York's high-tech companies, with the eye to generating new ideas and ventures that will produce tomorrow's prosperity, Ed Reinfurt, vice president of The Business Council, told a legislative hearing on higher education at the state Capitol today.

Targeted technologies: New York's investment should be concentrated in three areas, Reinfurt said: micro/nanotechnology, photonics and information technology, and genomics and biotechnology.

These are areas in which New York has an established leadership position, and in which there is "the greatest potential for societal and economic benefit to the state and educational benefit to other institutions, educators and students," he said.

These three areas emerged from discussions The Business Council has been having for several months with top research officials at universities, government research labs, and corporations, Reinfurt noted. During these meetings, Reinfurt said, these officials have affirmed both the need and the promise of such an investment, which The Council has come to call RUBI - the Research and University Business Initiative.

What other states are doing: Such an investment is necessary if New York is to remain competitive with other states, many of which have already announced comparable long-term, nine- and ten-figure commitments, Reinfurt noted.

"In this session and in this budget, New York State needs to decide if it wants its system of private and public education to be a player in the incredibly intense competition for technology leadership," he said.

"Time is one luxury we do not have," he said. "The cost of catching up is greater than the costs of starting up. Incremental steps will say to the rest of the nation that New York is not willing to make the commitment that other states have made."

Governor Pataki and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno have already proposed investments of this kind, which Reinfurt praised. He also noted that the State University of New York has developed a proposal to ensure that it has the resources to remain at the forefront of technological research, and many of the state's independent colleges and universities are preparing their own plans for future technological research.

But an even greater investment is needed, Reinfurt said, to keep pace with competing states.

"New York needs to move as fast as other states. It also needs to move as boldly," he said. "While the proposals to date are exciting and seem to represent a consensus, the fact is they do not invest as much as we believe New York needs to invest nor as much as other states have committed."

For example, Michigan has dedicated its entire tobacco settlement monies for investments in life sciences through its university systems. Governor Ryan of Illinois has proposed a five-year plan to invest $1.9 billion in technology areas under a VentureTECH Initiative. And California has moved to create three California Institutes of Science and Innovation.

Projected benefits: In making the proposed investment, New York should insist on eight benefits that Reinfurt said can and should be the result of such a commitment:

Other issues: Reinfurt praised lawmakers for their support of New York's public and independent institutions, noting that they are the key source of the highly skilled workforce that New York's economy needs.

At a time of workforce shortages, they can also help attract young people into New York. For this reason, he also said The Business Council opposes proposed reductions in "Bundy aid" to independent colleges and universities, and asks lawmakers to consider repealing the "tuition differential" that charges out-of-state students at the State University of New York higher tuition.