By pairing university researchers with technology companies, the University of Rochester's CEIS generates significant returns on its investments
The University of Rochester's Center for Emerging and Innovative Sciences (CEIS) announced Wednesday that in the past five years it had more than $600 million of impact on New York's economy by creating new jobs, saving companies money, and spurring spending on new equipment and infrastructure.
The center is funded by the state, through the New York State Foundation for Science, Technology, and Innovation (NYSTAR), under the Centers for Advanced Technology (CAT) program that supports 15 organizations similar to CEIS whose locations range from New York City to Potsdam to Buffalo (map of all locations).
Over the five-year period of the contract, from July 2004 through June 2009, CEIS received roughly $5 million in funding from New York state, which it invested in projects whose combined impact on the New York economy is assessed at over $600 million by the state, making this one of the most worthwhile investments that the state has made.
The state measures economic impact using a formula in which companies report how many new people they hired, new pieces of equipment they purchased, new sales they made, and new projects they started due wholly or partly to the CEIS subsidies that they received.
"By merging the talent found at our local universities with the needs of the hi-tech companies that form the backbone of the Rochester area, CEIS has been incredibly successful," said CEIS Director Gaurav Sharma, who, as an associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Rochester, has participated in multiple collaborations sponsored by the Center. "The Center's excellent performance not only validates the substantial benefits of university-industry partnerships in today's knowledge-driven economy – an idea that is gaining widespread attention all over the world today – but also reflects extremely well on our established processes, in particular our proposal assessment procedure that evaluates proposals not only on technical merit, but also economic merit."
Each state-funded CAT works to promote collaborations between university researchers and companies by providing matching state funding for research and development projects that receive industry funding and have the potential for significant positive economic impact in the state.
By facilitating these partnerships, CEIS allows companies to engage in research for which they might not have the appropriate infrastructure and skills "in-house." For the university faculty members, the additional funds through CEIS provide a significant incentive to work on research that can be readily applied to the real world and allows them to contribute to the local community.
The CAT program was established by the state in 1983 as a way to get some of the state's top research universities to put their intellectual assets to work in creating commercially viable products.
Rochester's organization started in 1993, as the Center for Electronic Imaging Systems, but changed its name to the Center for Emerging and Innovative Sciences last year in order to better represent the broader spectrum of technologies that the center embraces.
The center currently supports 40 projects throughout the region, including work on space-faring telescopes, medical devices, digital cameras, and remote sensing technology for applications such as remote-piloted military drones and exploration probes.