Why New York's 'Silicon Alley' may never match Silicon Valley
New York will offer free land and up to $100 million in infrastructure funds to a university willing to establish a world-class, high-tech school in the city, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Tuesday.
(Page 2 of 2)
“If MIT only started 10 years ago,” he says, “we would have had a very short report.”Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
MIT alumni, he notes, are much more likely to develop start-ups than are current students or faculty. This puts any new tech school, which won’t have an alumni network, at a disadvantage.
“There’s a lot of frustration New York is going to face if they think this is a short-term investment,” says Roberts, who met with New York Deputy Mayor Robert Steel in March, while the city was developing the initiative.
“Will the next mayor look at the budget of this university and say, ‘Hey, what are you doing for us lately?’ ” Roberts asks. “The answer will probably be, ‘Not very much.’ ”
Other critics question whether New York will ever rival Silicon Valley or Boston in the ability to transfer cutting-edge research in energy, medicine, software, and other sciences into innovative start-ups. At present, the city is known for high taxes, expensive office space, and large-scale investment firms.
Still, the institutions planning to compete for the city land and funding believe in New York’s high-tech potential – perhaps, in part, because of Bloomberg’s big push.
“The mayor has caught everyone’s imagination with this [initiative], including ours,” says David Skorton, president of Cornell University, which is based in Ithaca, N.Y., and plans to submit a proposal to the city.
Mr. Skorton emphasizes that Cornell’s New York City campus would not be a “start-up,” since the university already maintains some 10 sites in the city with about 5,000 employees. The new applied-science school would be organized around multi-disciplinary “hubs,” rather than departments, which Skorton says will foster an “innovation ecosystem.”
“We’re for real,” he says. “We serve New York City now, and we’re going to continue to serve N.Y.C. – hopefully through this mechanism.”
In a speech in the Grand Hyatt ballroom in Manhattan Tuesday, where many of the city’s business and policy leaders had converged for a conference on the future of New York, Bloomberg said the tech-school plan was part of his ongoing effort to “drag our city out of the past.”
He sees a New York economy emerging from the plan that stands on firmer ground, relying less on “Wall Street’s booms and busts.”
Bloomberg may have some personal reasons to support high-tech innovation. He studied electrical engineering at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, then founded a financial software and data company, which made him a billionaire.
“When I created Bloomberg L.P. in 1981, no one called us a start-up,” the mayor said Tuesday. “But that’s what we were.”