Press Release

At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Gillibrand Announces Bill To Bring High-Tech Innovation To The Marketplace

Jul 21, 2014

Troy, NY – Standing at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Manufacturing Innovation Learning Laboratory in the Low Center for Industrial Innovation, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, joined by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute  President Shirley Ann Jackson, announced a bipartisan bill to help translate the more than $520 million a year of research funding secured by Capital Region research institutions into successful small businesses and spur the growth of new science and technology jobs in the region and across New York.

New York State currently ranks second in the nation in university research funding – securing more than $6 billion in total investment across research institutions each year – but only attracts 7 percent of the nation’s venture capital needed to grow successful companies. Of this amount, Upstate areas like the Capital Region only receive about 3 percent of venture capital that comes to the state, holding back the potential to grow new businesses from the research done at institutions across Upstate New York. To help close this gap, Senator Gillibrand introduced the Technology and Research Accelerating National Security and Future Economic Resiliency (TRANSFER) Act, which 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 marketplace, and create 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 bipartisan legislation will help bring high-tech innovation into the marketplace, producing cutting-edge small businesses and new jobs. Equipping our scientists and students with effective business skills and access to much-needed gap funding will go a long way towards creating the next high-tech industry and a new 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.”

“Rensselaer has long been a leader in incubating new ideas and companies that arise from university-based education and research,” said Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President Shirley Ann Jackson.   ”As Senator Gillibrand, for example,  saw today, we are positioning our students and New York State companies to tap the entrepreneurial opportunities that are emerging from advances in manufacturing.  New products, processes, and ventures are likely to come from our efforts. However, moving promising ideas from the lab to the marketplace is challenging, and requires a broad range of supports, particularly at the earliest stages.  We welcome Senator Gillibrand’s leadership in working to strengthen this aspect of the innovation ecosystem.”

“I thank Senator Gillibrand for addressing the gap between our research funding and capital for young start-ups,” said F. Michael Tucker, President and CEO of the Center for Economic Growth. “This is important legislation to enhance New York’s position as a leader in the global technology economy. Supporting innovation and commercialization means business and job creation for Tech Valley.” 

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 TRANSFER Act would help close this gap by providing scientists and researchers with critical resources to bring innovative ideas to the marketplace. The goal is to turn innovative discoveries into new small businesses or a partnership with existing businesses to help push the product, spurring high-tech job growth in the Capital Region and across the country.

Under the TRANSFER Act, five federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, Health and Human Services, NASA, and the National Science Foundation, would establish a competitive grant program to help universities, federal laboratories and other non-profit research institutions identify and grow the development and commercialization of initial discoveries, making potential products more attractive to state, local and private investment. Winning institutions are eligible for up to $3 million in federal funding and would be able to designate up to $100,000 for each technology development project.

This investment would allow universities to create or strengthen their “proof of concept” funds, aimed to help researchers prove that their research can be practically and concretely used, better positioning the technology for private investment critical to launching a company. Universities and institutions would also be able to use grants for important technology development activities like prototype development, testing, market research, project management, and navigating patent and regulatory laws, as well as providing expert advice in business strategy through mentoring and entrepreneurial education. Funds could also be used to license products to existing small businesses.

Rensselaer launched the nation’s first business incubator program wholly sponsored and operated by a university in 1980. This incubator program, along with other technology transfer support from Rensselaer, has successfully helped students and faculty start more than 250 companies.

Vistex Composites, for example was born out of the work of two students in Rensselaer’s Center for Automation Technologies and Systems (CATS) who collaborated closely with Kintz Plastics researchers to develop and later patent a new method of consolidating and curing advanced composite laminates that is much less expensive and much more energy efficient than standard autoclaving.  Another success, Crystal IS, was founded by two Rensselaer professors to manufacture ultraviolet LEDs for the purification and sterilization of water, air and solid surfaces.