UB Leads The Way In Establishing Joint Venture Involving SUNY Engineering Programs

Release Date: January 19, 1994 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- SUNY Engineering, a "virtual university" whose lectures will be beamed overseas via satellite and whose classrooms and laboratories will treat industry as a bona fide partner, has been organized by the University at Buffalo and the other engineering programs in the State University of New York system.

The effort originated with George C. Lee, Ph.D., dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at UB, and was developed in conjunction with the schools of engineering at the SUNY university centers at Stony Brook and Binghamton and the electrical engineering department at the State University College at New Paltz.

The new organization will be the primary instrument for implementing the Strategic Partnership for Industrial Resurgence (SPIR), an economic development initiative aimed at bolstering the state economy by promoting the transfer of knowledge from the university to industry and by providing consultation and resources for industrial restructuring.

SPIR has been earmarked to receive $2 million in funding in New York State Gov. Cuomo's executive budget proposal released on Tuesday, Jan. 18.

Lee said that "during a time when resources are scarce for both industry and academia, and when increased competition around the globe requires that we use our resources in smarter, more efficient ways, this kind of industry/educational cooperation is becoming not only desirable, but necessary."

SUNY Engineering consists of more than 250 full-time faculty members, carrying annual research expenditures of $32 million. In 1991-92, the group produced nearly 1,000 graduates with a bachelor's degree, 375 with a master's degree and 87 with doctorates.

Lee described SUNY Engineering as a logical outgrowth of SUNY's emphasis in recent years on graduate education and research through the Graduate Research Initiative, which provides for investment in resources and facilities for graduate and post-graduate research.

"SUNY is now ready and able to make an additional effort to promote the transfer of knowledge in support of industry and the future economic development of New York State," Lee noted.

SPIR will focus, in particular, on regions of the state hardest hit by the decline of the defense and other traditional manufacturing industries.

A key aspect of the program is EngiNet, a computer network that will not only allow for better communication and the sharing of master's-level course offerings among the engineering schools, but also will facilitate the transfer of technical know-how and retraining tools, such as courses, from classrooms to companies.

For example, the University at Buffalo has for years delivered courses complete with faculty, textbooks and registration procedures right to the doorsteps of local companies, making it easy for companies to enhance employees' skills and do retraining.

EngiNet will allow many more companies throughout the state to take advantage of such opportunities.

The Watson School at Binghamton has delivered instructional television to certain New York State companies for more than seven years. Twenty-six graduate-level engineering courses have been taught on campus, while they were also videotaped and taught at companies that included Corning Glass, Becton Dickinson and IBM.

Lee noted that the sharing of actual graduate courses through computer and video technology will help each school increase the range of courses it offers without having to make an additional investment in personnel and other resources.

He emphasized that the SUNY Engineering consortium has a global vision for the future of the state. In particular, UB has been leading efforts to exchange students, teachers and technology across national borders.

Currently, UB's school of engineering has cooperative or exchange programs with institutions in England, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Japan, China, Taiwan, Malaysia and other countries.

Of special note, UB has established an office to implement a U.S.-Peoples Republic of China Cooperative Technology Development Project in connection with the Beijing Polytechnic University. The program, which evolved out of a scholarly exchange between the two schools during the past 12 years, will lay the foundation for partnerships in technology development beneficial to both partners.

UB is looking into the transmission of lectures by satellite to overseas institutions, the organization of international teams to examine practical problems and product development, and the establishment of ties, such as joint-targeted research and development efforts, between local and New York State industries that want to work with Chinese businesses.

• Manufacturing analyses that may demonstrate the advantages of further investment, such as one performed by UB engineering faculty, that led, in part, to Dunlop Tire's decision to stay in Western New York and even expand.

• Diversification of defense industries, such as the joint research by UB professors and Taylor Devices, that resulted in the adaptation of a technology designed to isolate MX missiles from shock produced by nuclear explosions to the development of shock absorbers to protect buildings from earthquake damage.

• Development of partnerships not only between schools and companies, but also among companies themselves, such as the Center for Computing Technologies at Binghamton, which brings together companies whose products have large data-processing needs.

• The joint application by schools and companies for research grants, such as one applied for by Dayton T. Brown and Stony Brook's engineering school, which resulted in a multi-year award of $20 million and at least 50 new professional jobs on Long Island.

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