ALBANY, N.Y. -- A comprehensive statewide study finds that the
State University of New York is positioned to be the critical force
in building a new innovation economy for New York -- with a broad
and diverse array of economic development activities already in
place across the 64-campus system, and with a growing potential to
do more in the future.
The study, a joint project of the Nelson A. Rockefeller
Institute of Government at the University at Albany and of the
University at Buffalo Regional Institute, reported that the SUNY
system had an economic impact of a minimum of $19.8 billion in
2008-09, based on the spending of its colleges and universities,
students, employees and campus visitors.
But the institutes' report, How SUNY Matters: Economic Impacts
of the State University of New York, found that the system is
making an even more important contribution to New York's future
economy -- to the state's capacity to grow and produce jobs in the
new economy of the 21st century. SUNY's key contributions are:
-- Educating a competitive workforce, through its broad
educational mission and through a rich array of career-specific
programs at community colleges and other campuses.
-- Helping employers large and small with the adoption of new
technologies and new ideas.
-- Rapidly growing the capacity of its research campuses, in
particular, to develop new technologies and to transfer their
research findings into commercial use.
The report was commissioned by SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher,
who said on her first day in office -- June 1, 2009 -- that she
wanted to make SUNY "the engine of New York's economic
revitalization." It was released today at a news conference with
Zimpher at the Rockefeller Institute in Albany.
"This is the Power of SUNY," said Zimpher. "The economic impact
generated by the 64 campuses of SUNY is massive. The system's
capacity to innovate and help new businesses succeed, and to create
jobs and populate the workforce with skilled, educated New Yorkers,
is unmatched. This much is clear -- with SUNY leading the charge,
the economic revitalization of New York is certain and the future
Kathryn A. Foster, director of the UB Regional Institute, said
the report shows that "SUNY packs a double punch: it's producing
the kind of new ideas we need to create high-paying jobs in New
York State -- and it's helping produce a workforce prepared to take
"New York State's job growth has been less than a third of the
nation's over the past two decades," said Thomas Gais, director of
the Rockefeller Institute. "SUNY is the key to making our
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has stressed the importance of SUNY's role in
the economy, declaring that the work of his 10 regional economic
development councils will be "higher-ed driven." As a first step in
that process, the governor and the chancellor announced on May 2
that the research campuses at Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo and Stony
Brook would be eligible for $35 million each in challenge grants
"to spur local economic development and contribute to regional
revitalization." Indeed, the institutes' research identifies ways
in which all four research campuses are already taking leading
roles in building New York's innovation economy.
The study team surveyed all SUNY campuses with respect to their
economic development activities; examined individual campus efforts
ranging from the College of Nanoscale Science & Engineering at
UAlbany to the Business Technology Incubator opened by SUNY
Fredonia; and compiled detailed statistical and financial data on
SUNY campuses' contribution to the workforce and economies of the
state and each of its 10 economic development regions. The result
is the most comprehensive and detailed analysis ever undertaken of
the statewide economic impact of the entire SUNY system, which
incorporates research universities, university colleges, community
colleges and specialized institutions from Long Island to Western
The system's primary mission is education, and the report said
that's at the heart of SUNY's economic potential, too. For example,
in 2008-09 (the most recent year for which comprehensive data on
all the parameters of the study were available), fully two-thirds
of all SUNY degrees awarded were in fields related to the 16
clusters that state government has identified as key to the state's
future growth. SUNY has some 1.6 million alumni in the state.
The traditional research mission of the university system also
brings direct economic benefits. SUNY attracted some $1.3 billion
in research funding in 2008-09, much of it from federal and
out-of-state sources. In a typical year it tallies some 360
invention disclosures with potential commercial impact, 70 or more
patents, 20 or more spin-offs of companies, 25 start-ups of new
companies and some 60 licenses that yield revenue for the
commercial use of university discoveries.
Direct spending by the institutions, their students, employees
and overnight visitors yielded an economic impact of a minimum
$19.8 billion in the state in 2008-09 -- a better than five-to-one
return on the state taxpayers' spending for SUNY. SUNY and its
associated economic activity also supported 173,000 jobs across the
state. The research team said the system's full economic impact is
likely to be considerably higher if the analysis counted employment
and spending by firms affiliated with individual campuses -- for
example, university foundations and auxiliary organizations,
private companies that collaborate with campuses on tech transfer
and process improvement, and business start-ups generated by SUNY
institutions. (Those activities could not be incorporated in the
institutes' statewide and regional figures because data compiled on
them vary from campus to campus, and therefore cannot be totaled up
statewide on a consistent and comparable basis.)
The institutes' survey of SUNY campuses found an extensive array
of campus efforts to transfer technology from the lab to the
marketplace, to assist local firms in implementing new processes
and new science, to provide employer-focused job training and to
foster the vitality of the communities within which they are
located. Almost all campuses have some combination of business
incubators, lab space and equipment available for commercial use,
support for patent and prototype development, and small business
development centers. More than three-quarters have programs to
place students as interns in local businesses. Almost half have
programs that encourage faculty, staff or students to provide
technical assistance to businesses or community.
How SUNY Matters takes an in-depth look at some key initiatives
at specific campuses that are pointing the way ahead in the
system's growing involvement in economic development. For
-- The University at Buffalo, which has an array of research and
technology programs for the region's traditional manufacturing
base, is forcefully moving into the life sciences, and also
operates a highly regarded entrepreneurship training program for
small-business owners. The report highlights UB's new
business-friendly gateway that makes it easier for employers to
identify and access university programs and resources that could
-- The University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science &
Engineering has attracted $6 billion in private-sector investment
and has some 2,600 scientists, researchers, engineers and
technicians on site, most of them from private firms collaborating
with the university. The report emphasizes the role of faculty
entrepreneurship in Nano's success, noting that its founder, Alain
Kaloyeros, started building his own lab equipment as an assistant
physics professor back in 1993, "and hasn't stopped building
-- Downstate Medical Center has put New York City on the map for
the biotech industry by creating an incubator center for new firms
and then converting the old Brooklyn Army Terminal into a bustling
center that gives young biotech firms room to grow.
-- Stony Brook University is a growing force in wireless
communications, among other sectors; it collaborates with business
"from cradle to Fortune 500," as the university puts it.
-- And Binghamton University has developed lab facilities that
are now a key asset not only for its own students and researchers,
but also for a wide array of firms in the Southern Tier's
The largest section of the report provides information on the
impact of SUNY institutions and alumni in each of the state's 10
regions, with data arrayed on a consistent basis to enable
region-by-region comparison, and with narrative examples showing
the diverse ways that individual SUNY campuses are supporting the
growth of their local economies. Some highlights:
-- In the Capital District, community colleges are aggressively
adding training programs and facilities to enable local workers to
take advantage of the jobs created by Albany Nano's success.
-- In Central New York, SUNY has 107,000 alumni and 40,600
students. Upstate Medical University and the College of
Environmental Science and Forestry are creating a new biotechnology
research center to house companies spun off from their
-- In the Finger Lakes, SUNY Geneseo's Microenterprise
Assistance Program provides low- and moderate-income entrepreneurs
with free training and technical assistance to start and maintain
businesses. Monroe Community College combines community-building
with workforce development, targeting low-income populations for
training in construction and the trades.
-- In the Hudson Valley, six community colleges have created a
Clean Energy Technology Training Consortium that pools their
resources to provide the training needed by the region's growing
-- On Long Island, the economic impact of SUNY institutions is a
minimum of $3.9 billion. Farmingdale State College operates an
Institute for Research and Technology Transfer that gives industry
access to specialized equipment and faculty consultation.
-- In the Mohawk Valley, SUNY institutions have 25,200 students,
almost half of them drawn in from other regions, states and
nations. Fulton-Montgomery Community College snared a $1 million
federal grant that's enabling it to develop new tech courses and
programs in its Center for Engineering and Technology.
-- In New York City, SUNY's Fashion Institute of Technology is
the most important source of skilled workers in the garment
industry; it operates robust partnerships with more than 4,000
company sponsors and has over 5,200 active internship positions.
All told, there are 150,000 SUNY alumni in the city.
-- In the North Country, SUNY alumni, students and employees
account for 37 percent of the region's population. Clinton
Community College provided training programs that were instrumental
in attracting a new bus manufacturer.
-- In the Southern Tier, SUNY alumni equal about one-third of
the regional workforce. Tompkins Cortland Community College offers
employers customized, specialized training programs at three sites,
or at a company's own location.
-- In Western New York, SUNY awards a total of 15,000 degrees a
year -- two out of every three new graduates in the region. The
region's SUNY institutions are well above average in attracting
research funding and international students -- two key sources of
out-of-state money coming into the local economy.
But the report concludes that all this is only the beginning of
SUNY's potential for New York State. The study, it says,
"discovered a strong foundation to build on, including many
creative methods and institutional capacities that support
entrepreneurialism and innovation."
Going forward into what its strategic plan calls "the
Entrepreneurial Century," the report says, SUNY needs to "find,
nurture, develop and unleash the next dozen or two dozen or 200
faculty entrepreneurs; and give those who have some initial success
the opportunity to pyramid those into much larger agglomerations of
mutually strengthening academic and commercial activities."
"The 64-campus system offers many independent potential sources
of initiative, and the diversity of campuses and their
specializations means that a wide range of economic needs may be
recognized and addressed. In sum, opportunities for innovation,
entrepreneurship and economic leadership are widespread in the SUNY
system -- and can be exploited more fully."
For full copies of the report, visit http://www.regional-institute.buffalo.edu.
A major research and public policy center of the University at
Buffalo, the Regional Institute plays a vital role in addressing
key policy and governance issues for regions, with focused analysis
of the Buffalo-Niagara region. The institute leverages the
resources of the university and binational community to pursue a
wide range of scholarship, projects and initiatives that frame
issues, inform decisions and guide change.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.
The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, at the
University at Albany, is the public policy research arm of the
State University of New York. The Rockefeller Institute conducts
fiscal and programmatic research on American state and local
governments. Journalists can find useful information on the
Newsroom page of its website, http://www.rockinst.org.