A Tech Cluster in Upstate New York?

28 Oct ’06

Some time ago Toronto launched ICT Toronto, “An Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Cluster Development Strategy”, a plan to make the Toronto region “one of the five most innovative, creative and productive locations in the world for infotech research, education, business and investment by 2011. I’m a sceptic – I’m dubious that government can achieve anything of the sort – and my scepticism deepened considerably when I learned recently that the program has effectively no budget. Be that as it may, it’s a noble goal, and you can’t help but wish such well-meaning efforts well.

But from the NYT today, a reminder that the rest of the world is not sitting still:

The modern factory is also an important part of an ambitious business-and-government effort to create a thriving industrial cluster in upstate New York, based on microelectronics and nanotechnology, the science of manipulating materials at the molecular and atomic level.

The other pillar of the plan is the Albany NanoTech complex, a research and development center at the State University of New York at Albany, nearly 100 miles north of East Fishkill.

State and local governments are betting big on this high-tech vision, with grants, tax breaks and other subsidies of more than $1 billion, mainly in the last five years. More government backing has been pledged. That bet may already be paying off. There are recent signs, from big-company investments to the birth of small start-ups, to suggest that the technology cluster is gaining momentum.

Again, I’m dubious, and the article quickly summarizes some of the reasons why scepticism may well be due, but in any event – $1 billion!! I’m not sure which effort I admire more – the ICT shoestring effort or the New York state deep pockets effort.

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