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New York CATs to Keep State Competitive after Decennial Re-compete

July 12, 2004

One of the recurring issues in many states for financing centers as part of their tech-based economic development portfolio is whether or not the organizations resulting from the multi-year, multimillion grants should become financially self sufficient at the end of the grant term. New York's approach of redesignating its Centers for Advanced Technology (CATs) provides a model similar to efforts employed in some states, but with broader applicability across many public-private initiatives to ensure long term, recurring public investments are yielding significant economic results.

Mandatory re-competitions through sunset clauses or grant terms force all of the partners in a particular tech-based economic development initiative to re-evaluate the program's continued value and effectiveness.

Administered through the New York State Office of Science, Technology and Advanced Research (NYSTAR), the CAT program supports university-industry collaborative research and technology transfer in commercially relevant technologies. The program was created 21 years ago in 1983 to facility the transfer of technology from New York’s top research universities into commercially viable products produced in the private sector. The CAT Development Program was created in 1999 to provide more resources to successful centers to expand their work with New York business.

Currently, 15 CATs are in operation in New York, each connected to a particular public or private university and focused in one or more specific technology areas. Over the past five years, a state impact assessment of the program revealed the CATs have helped create or retain more than 5,300 jobs and generated more than $1.7 billion in private sector revenues, cost savings and capital expenditures.

With the CAT designation, the state commits to funding the center for up to 10 years, provided the legislature appropriates funding for the program and the center meets its milestones. Historically, public funding has averaged $1 million per year for each center.

Ten of the CATS were up for re-designation this year, allowing NYSTAR the opportunity to assess whether or not the financial relationship should continue with each center. As part of the selection process, proposals were judged on the basis of the center management team’s experience, the applicant’s track record in assisting industry with applied research and commercialization, the institution’s breadth of research resources, and the degree to which New York’s investment will enable the applicant’s ability to create economic impact in New York State.

As a result of the re-compete, one new Center for Advanced Technology emerged. The new CAT in energy systems at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will focus on energy conservation, smart lighting, fuel cells and renewable energy sources. The other nine institutions receiving CAT designation include Binghamton University, City University of New York-City College, Columbia University, Cornell University, Polytechnic University, Stony Brook University, Syracuse University, the University at Albany and the University of Rochester.

More information on the CAT program and the centers receiving designation is available at: http://www.nystar.state.ny.us/cats.htm

New York