ALBANY, N.Y. Some 300 executives gathered here for two days this week in the state capital to define next steps for build a "technopolis" that proponents define as a region where technology drives the economy.
Modeling itself after California's Silicon Valley and the technology corridor around Austin, Texas, New York's "Tech Valley" is planning on a more ambitious scale encompassing 17 counties reaching all the way to the Canadian border. "Tech Valley has arrived," proclaimed Alain Kaloyeros, Albany NanoTech executive director. "New York has made high tech the backbone of its economy for this century."
Kaloyeros said the Empire State's $2.5 billion budget for high-tech research in the last four years outpaces what the federal government has spent. He added in a keynote speech that the state considered federal guidance for launching its six centers of excellence in nanoelectronics, bioinformatics, infotonics, information technology, environmental energy and software.
The Albany NanoTech is an umbrella organization for leading-edge research in nanotechnology, micro- an nanosystems, thin-film technology and opto- and nanoelectronics. Albany NanoTech boasts a $125-million, 200-meter clean room facility which will house 300-mm wafer R&D facilities to be added in the next several years. The $1-billion construction project is "the world's only university-based 300-mm facility," Kaloyeros said.
Duplicating the success of Silicon Valley remains a challenge for Tech Valley planners. While Kaloyeros claimed the centers of excellence are attracting such organizations as International Sematech, IBM, AMD, Tokyo Electron Ltd. and Dell Computer, the growing pains of building up a "technopolis" can already be felt.
At a panel discussion during the summit several speakers warned that transportation, health care, housing and education need to be addressed upfront to avoid growing problems in Silicon Valley and elsewhere like traffic congestion and high housing prices.
"The Tech Valley region is much larger than the Austin high-tech region which spans five counties in the city proper and nine counties in central Texas," said Glenn West, ex-president of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and currently managing director at Hoak Breedlove Wesneski & Co., a Dallas-based investment-banking firm.
A major challenge is communicating to engineering graduates what Tech Valley has to offer, said West. "In Austin, for instance, this is not a problem."
Glenn also pointed to the many spinoffs that emerged from quasi-governmental organizations based in Austin. Many member-company representatives from the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corp. and Sematech chose to stay in Austin after their stints at the consortia. The same needs to happen at Tech Valley, Glenn said.
Michael Polcari, president and chief executive of International Sematech said the area needs to attract and retain engineers to help solve sub-90 nm semiconductor processing challenges. International Sematech is collaborating on EUV processing at Albany NanoTech, inlcuding development of next-generation masks.
Polcari is no stranger to the area, having spent 30 years at IBM, including a stint in Somers, N.Y. The transition to 300-mm wafers will be the focus of collaboration within International Sematech North here.
Tech Valley summit sponsors pooled funds to offer competing companies a $100,000 grant for the best business plan presented here. The winner, Crystal IS Inc. (Watervliet, N.Y.) will receive $50,000 up front and another $50,000 after reaching certain milestones.
The company produces aluminum-nitride crystals to be used in products as mundane as the light-emitting diodes to more complex applications such as lasers used in DVD players and bio-agent sensors.
CNN host Lou Dobbs predicted the GNP growth will grow 3 percent in the next 12 months. "Technology is making a comeback, because it never went away. The end of the bear cycle is over," said Dobbs.