TRANSFER Bill Aims To Boost Hi-Tech Upstate

Jul 21, 2014

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has hopped on the bandwagon to broaden New York’s mark on advanced technology. She appeared at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute this morning stumping for new legislation to cement high-tech innovation and industry in the Capital Region.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand checks out research materials at RPI with college President Shirley Jackson.
Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Saying New York "must ensure that the next high-tech industry starts right here," Gillibrand claimed her bi-partisan Technology and Research Accelerating National Security and Future Economic Resiliency (TRANSFER) Act would create a competitive grant program for universities, colleges, federal laboratories and non-profit research institutions to help scientists and researchers secure valuable business resources and training to attract private investment, bring their discoveries to the commercial marketplace, and create new high-tech companies and jobs.     "New York State ranks second in the nation in university research funding – securing more than $6 billion a year in research investment – but only attracts 7 percent of the nation’s venture capital - upstate New York only receives about 3 percent of venture capital,  holding back the potential to grow new businesses from the research. So you see we have the most brilliant ideas, but we haven't yet figured out how to get access to enough capital to being those ideas to fruition, and that's what we wanna do in this legislation."

Gillibrand noted that the Capital Region's extraordinary research institutions are well-qualified and well-positioned to take advantage of federal funding.    "Federal investment from this program will help translate innovative discoveries into new businesses or partnerships with investing businesses. Winning institutions would be able to receive up to $3 million, with up to $100K designated for each technology project of that institution."  Examples of how the money could be used by researchers include prototype development, market research and entrepreneurial education. 

RPI President Shirley Jackson says the region is at the beginning of a new era, with global implications.   RPI "Now this new era is generating changes in all areas of our lives, including celebrating the important resurgence of manufacturing, which then opens new opportunities for entrepreneurship."

Jackson pointed out that Rensselaer launched the nation’s first business incubator program wholly sponsored and operated by a university in 1980, which to date, has successfully helped students and faculty start more than 250 companies.

Gillibrand's measure has support across the aisle.   "We have Congressman Collins promoting it in the House. It's already in the House Armed Services Bill, which means I can try to have an amendment for the Senate floor and then work in conference to keep it in.  This will be extremely helpful because there's a lot of federal funding for research now. It would basically just say all that federal funding you have permission to use it for this gap funding. So the business ideas would really promote themselves."

Gillibrand toured a research lab at RPI with Dr. Jackson. Video of the visit appears below.