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Report: Upstate losing out on business-startup capital

April 26, 2011

Press & Sun Bulletin

New York has $4.5 billion in annual research and development funds coming in and the second-highest number of doctorate degrees and patents in the country, according to a study from Rochester-based economic development group Excell Partners.

When it comes to venture capital, however, a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report showed just 0.2 percent of the $21 billion invested nationwide last year was sent to the upstate region.

That number is "pathetically low," said Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-Endwell.

"What's wrong with this picture? For all intents and purposes, we ought to be in really great shape," Lupardo said. "What's missing? We don't have any seed capital. We don't have any money."

Figuring out how to entice venture capital firms -- groups that invest in innovative companies and collect equity -- to keep their money in New York is part of Lupardo's job as chairwoman of the Legislative Commission on Science and Technology.

According to the 2009 report by Excell Partners, such firms based in New York invested just 9 percent of their capital within state boundaries, with 40 percent sent to Silicon Valley.

"One of the challenges upstate is there is not a lot of cross-pollination among entrepreneurs," said Chuck Schwerin, CEO of Broome County-based Sonostics, a biotechnology startup. "There have been some attempts to do that in New York City, where there are meet-ups where young entrepreneurs come together and talk about issues they have in common, but that hasn't really been the case upstate."

Sonostics, which commercialized a technology to convert the sound of muscle contractions into absolute force, got its start in 2008 and has sought venture capital, but Schwerin said the company likely won't receive that funding until it proves sustainable.

The company grew out of Binghamton University's bioengineering department and made use of a university program designed to partner with innovative startups.

That program -- administered by the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Partnerships -- is part of a growing trend at research universities and something that Lupardo sees playing a key role in the future.

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SUNY Tuition; A Reasonable Plan from Trustees

April 25, 2011

Watertown Daily Times Editorial

A plan for yearly, modest rate hikes in tuition for the State University of New York gives SUNY and students what is lacking in the present method of setting tuition: predictability.

Tuition for the nearly half-million students at the 64 campuses is controlled now by the state Legislature. Rate hikes are sporadic and subject to political pressures. The last rate hike in 2009 brought tuition to $4,970 a year.

But SUNY did not get all of the rate hike. Most of it was "swept" into the state's general fund rather than going to SUNY, an indirect way of taxing SUNY students to fund state operations.

Over the same time, state aid to SUNY has been slashed.

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A solar light at the tunnel's end

April 11, 2011

Times Union Editorial

The award of $57.5 million to the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering to create a solar manufacturing consortium is not just the kind of news we like to hear about a local educational institution. It's the kind of investment we're glad to see this nation make.

It's a feather for UAlbany, of course, and a bonus for the region, that may have just gotten an early front-row seat on the future of solar energy. If it lives up to its promise, the U.S. Photovoltaic Manufacturing Consortium could lead a revolution in solar technologies that generate electricity.

This is the kind of news that gives us hope that the federal government has learned the mistakes it made after the oil crises of the 1970s and that it won't again let the opportunity to chart a sounder energy course slip by. That means more earnestly supporting the search for practical, sustainable energy. It means treating conservation, from home energy efficiency to fuel efficiency standards to sensible speed limits, as a matter of national interest. It means policies that aren't driven by the price of corn in Kansas and the campaign contributions of Big Agriculture.

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