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‘Important’ tech hub designations will help create ‘economic activity and innovation’ upstate, says Cornell professor

Nobel Laureate Stanely Whittingham showed his Binghamton University laboratory to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in 2022.
Vaughn Golden
Cornell University has been named as part of the Upstate New York Tech Hub corridor

Binghamton, as well as the Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse regions have been designated as tech hubs. This will lead to potential federal funding for production and research into various technologies. Brent Fox spoke with the executive director of the Center for Regional Economic Advancement at Cornell University, Tom Schryver.

Brent Fox: So what does it mean to be designated as a tech hub?

Tom Schryver: These are designations from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. They're a new program. And what the federal government is trying to do is to identify certain technology areas in geographies, particularly ones where a lot of tech advancement has not been so prevalent. And so what this means is, it's an area here in upstate New York that is being designated for future support, perhaps around this semiconductors theme.

BF: Each tech hub is different. So what kind of tech hubs are we going to be seeing in the upstate New York region?

TS: There are two that were just announced. And I'm super excited about both of them. One of them is around semiconductor manufacturing and all the supply chain issues around that. And that was really started with the work to get Micron Technologies to come and put their manufacturing facility just north of Syracuse. And also some really groundbreaking research and innovation at the region's universities, including at Cornell where I work. So that's one around semiconductors.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the federal designation Monday, joined by Binghamton University leadership and elected officials.
Phoebe Taylor-Vuolo
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the federal designation joined by Binghamton University leadership and elected officials.

The other one is around battery manufacturing. And I think a lot of people know but in case you missed it, there's a person Professor Stan Whittingham at the University of Binghamton, who's really one of the inventors of lithium ion battery technology. I dare you to find a person who does not have a lithium ion battery technology, a battery on their person, right? They've got one of their phone, you got one everywhere. And Stan Whittingham is the parent of that. And he won a Nobel Prize for doing that work. And so lithium ion battery manufacturing and battery storage is the other tech hub, and is building on all of that great work around the biggest area.

BF: And how do you feel the tech hub designation will affect these industries going forward?

TS: I think it's a really important designation and recognition from the federal government about the fact that these clusters are coming together. So when we say clusters, think about innovation clusters. I'm a member of the faculty at the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell. And so a lot of my colleagues have done research around things like innovation clusters, which show that when you bring people together who are working on similar technology areas, you get this whole that's greater than the sum of the parts phenomenon.

And so that's what the federal government's doing. And they're saying, look at the work that's happening around batteries, around semiconductors. If we can help bring people together, show that these are focus areas, bring more companies and startups and innovators and workers together, then we can get even more economic activity and innovation around that. And that's what I think this is a big part of, just that tailwind, if you will, that support that we're seeing from the federal government to do this.

BF: And what role will Cornell University be playing in this situation?

TS: Well, Cornell is the land grant university for New York state. I'm very proud to say as somebody affiliated with the university for most of my life, which means that supporting I think the original law in the 1800s was the agricultural and mechanical arts from the Moral Land Grant Act. So the mission of Cornell is around supporting innovation, education and translation of innovation.


And as I mentioned before, we've got researchers working in these fields who have new innovations that are going to come out. And through the work that I and my colleagues do at the SC Johnson College and through the Center for Regional Economic Advancement, we also provide support to new companies, and companies that are growing in these spaces. So we're going to be active in a lot of ways. We're going to be active in both of these new tech hubs, as well as in supporting innovators, startup creation, corporations, translating technology, a lot of those kinds of programs. And we're really excited to be a part of that.

BF: Do you also see the possibility of these tech hubs working together in some form of partnership?

TS: One of the programs that we're a part of that's also funded by the federal government that we're so tremendously proud of, is from the National Science Foundation, and it's a program called iCore. And it helps technology innovators translate technology into impact, which is what Cornell is all about, what Cornell research and innovation is all about. And it's what SUNY Binghamton and Binghamton University are about, Syracuse, University of Rochester, RIT, University of Buffalo. We're all partners in this together. And so one of the things that I think is so amazing is when you look at the institutions upstate, that are at the center of these two tech hubs. We can leverage these partnerships that already exist through programs like iCore that we're already a part of that help innovators with translating technology. So it really fits into a lot of work that's already there. And it's just such this fantastic amplifier to what we've already been working on.

Cornell University is an underwriter of WSKG News.

Has been working in public media since 2018. Was a multimedia producer at WNIT in South Bend, Indiana before making his way back to the New York.