UB Receives $1.5 Million to Help Regional Businesses Remain Competitive

By Sue Wuetcher

Release Date: June 5, 1995 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo has received $1.5 million from the federal Small Business Administration -- upon the initiative of Rep. John J. LaFalce -- to lead a demonstration project to assist area businesses in developing new products in cooperation with regional research universities.

The two-year project -- UB Greater Regional Industrial Technology Program, or UB GRIT -- is expected to boost the economy of Western New York, as well as New York State. It will serve as a model for small-business product development, and job creation and preservation.

UB GRIT, to be directed by George Lee, former dean of the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, will help small firms make technical improvements in their commercial-industrial products, particularly products with existing or prospective export markets.

UB will be the lead institution in a consortium of universities that includes Syracuse University, the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology that will help these small manufacturers incorporate the latest technology into their products.

To survive in intense international competition, small businesses must continuously develop and improve their products or risk losing not only export opportunities, but domestic markets, and, ultimately, American jobs.

But for most small firms, the cost of maintaining research-and-development operations in-house is prohibitive.

UB GRIT will help those firms improve their current products, as well as develop new ones, thus allowing them to stay competitive in the domestic and global marketplaces.

"It means a great deal to UB to be a leader in a partnership that offers such immense opportunities for Western New York as a whole," UB President William R. Greiner said at a press conference announcing release of the funding.

"We see building our regional and state economies as a key form of the university's service to our neighbors and fellow New Yorkers," Greiner added.

"Supporting technology-intensive businesses in our region, and helping to foster their collaborations with both education and government, is one of the most practical and longest-lasting ways to build competitiveness."

He added: "We are grateful to the Congress for the opportunity to make the GRIT partnership a reality. We especially appreciate the enormous effort and support that Congressman John LaFalce has dedicated to the initiative. His leadership will translate into immense benefits for UB, for our partner universities, for the participating businesses and, we think, for all of New York State."

The consortium, with the assistance of regional economic development agencies, will solicit proposals from small businesses for product-development projects based on the match of university expertise to product technologies; market and competition considerations; company willingness to share costs, and overall economic benefit and importance to the region.

During the course of the project, between 7 and 15 product-improvement projects will be conducted by the consortium. The individual projects would involve, but not be limited to, product-focused, multidisciplinary teams of faculty-led graduate students and advanced undergraduates.

Lee stressed the strong educational component of the project.

"Faculty, staff and students of the engineering schools participating in the consortium will collectively interact with technology-based small industries in the region," he said. "The schools' faculty and students will gain invaluable experience by working on real-world industrial projects that involve a multidisciplinary team approach to product improvement and development."

In addition, employees of the industries involved will benefit from continuing education and certificate programs organized with them by the consortium, he added.