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December 20, 2011 8:37 am

Start Up City: Technion-Cornell Consortium to Lead NYC Science Center

avatar by Maxine Dovere

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A rendering of the campus. Image: Skidmore Owings & Merrill.

An international academic partnership slated to thrust New York City into the forefront of twenty first century science and technology was announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a news conference on Manhattan’s Upper East Side on December 19th. The consortium of Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology was named as builder of an 11-acre state-of-the-art technical campus on Roosevelt Island. The Mayor, Cornell President David J. Skorton, and Technion President Peretz Lavie revealed plans to build a two-million-square-foot applied science and engineering campus on the East River atoll. The City is providing both the site and $100 million in infrastructure development.

The “Applied Sciences NYC” initiative will “increase New York City’s capacity for applied sciences and dramatically transform the City’s economy,” noted the Mayor. The consortium will lead New York City’s push into new century technology. Each of the consortium partners is renowned for its prowess in both scientific development and practical application, i.e., the creation of new technology based businesses “born” on each of their campuses.

City and federal politicians added their praise. “Thanks to this outstanding partnership and groundbreaking proposal from Cornell and the Technion, New York City’s goal of becoming the global leader in technological innovation is now within sight,” said Bloomberg. “We will educate tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and create the jobs of the future.”  U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer added his enthusiasm. “Look out Silicon Valley, look out Boston: New York will be second to none!” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand applauded the Cornell-Technion partnership saying it “will bolster the city’s potential to spark new industries, attract businesses, and create thousands of jobs.” Congresswoman Maloney thanked Mayor Bloomberg for his “vision” and “wisdom” saying the Roosevelt Island location afforded every city advantage yet was “separate enough to have a small-town feel.”

Said City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, “I’m thrilled for what this means for the future of our city, and its economic growth. This historic partnership is a milestone for the City.” Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer noted that the Center said “will help ensure that New York City leads the world’s innovation in the 21st century.”

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Ido Aharoni, Consul General for Israel, praised the consortium and the “innovations that this dynamic partnership will create.” “We are grateful for the opportunity to introduce Israel’s creative spirit to New York City’s new technological center through this unique Technion-Cornell partnership. This is …an alliance of leading young minds.  We will do our best to turn this endeavor into a major success.”

“Our pride and our hopes for the future are shared by the whole Technion community of students, faculty, friends and supporters, including the very successful American Technion Society,” said the Technion President Peretz Lavie. “Together, we have the means, ingenuity and will power to make our world a better place by joining with Cornell University and the great people of New York City for this innovative new center of learning and enterprise.” (Sources have indicated to the Algemeiner that it was the Technion that sought the partnership of Cornell University. The Israeli technical center was invited to submit its proposal and designated an American partner. To successfully compete and win, the Technion needed a local Partner. Technion’s President Lavie considered “6000 miles, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean – too far.”

“Cornell University and our extraordinary partner, The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, are deeply gratified to have the opportunity to realize Mayor Bloomberg’s vision for New York City,” said Cornell President Skorton. “Starting today, we are going to put our plan to work, tapping into our extensive connections throughout the city and build a truly 21st Century campus to fuel the creation of new businesses and new industries.”

The first 300,000 square foot segment of the 2 million square foot project – slated for completion in 2043 – will open in 2017. (An off-site facility will open in 2012.)  At its completion, the center will  increase the number of full-time, graduate engineering students in leading New York City Master’s and Ph.D. programs by approximately 70 percent. The campus will be organized around three interdisciplinary hubs: Connective Media, Healthier Life, and the Built Environment. Cornell will immediately offer Master and Doctoral degrees and a Technion-Cornell dual Master of Applied Sciences degree. The new campus will be an economic generator of great importance, instigating entrepreneurial activity and providing support for start-ups including technical, financial and legal applications.

By the time the Campus is formally complete, more than “$7.5 billion (NPV) and more than $23 billion (nominal) in overall economic activity is expected. $1.4 billion (nominal) in total tax revenue is anticipated. 20,000 construction jobs and up to 8,000 permanent jobs will be created. The center will help make New York a Start Up City: 600 spin-off companies (are)…projected to create 30,000 permanent jobs.”  (NYC provided statistics)

The Technion is recognized as “a driving force behind Israel’s emergence as one of the world’s great centers of technology” itself filling some 300 patents annually and fostering technological growth throughout Israel. Haaretz has reported that approximately 4,000 start-up companies are located around the Technion’s campus in Haifa. Both universities are considered “world-class” in research, development and entrepreneurship. Of practical importance, both universities have also proven ability with fundraising and development -both in New York City and beyond – that will enhance their ability to complete this massive undertaking.

Cornell announced the receipt of a $350 million gift from Atlantic Philanthropies and founder Charles F. Feeney, a Cornell alumnus and creator of the Duty Free Shoppers Group. The gift is considered “critical in building Cornell University’s new high-tech graduate school.”

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