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Nanotechnology: the future of New York State manufacturing

By Dennis Conard


Recently, renovations have been taking place at the old General Electric building in Salina with the goal of turning it into the Central New York Nanotechnology Innovation and Commercialization Excelerator, or NICE for short. You may be asking yourself, “What is nanotechnology and why is it important to you? How will it affect Central New York’s economy? NICE is just one small location — will it matter?”

Nanotechnology is the science of dealing with materials at the atomic and molecular scale. One nanometer is one billionth of a meter. Nanotechnology deals with materials 100 nanometers and smaller. A human hair, for example, is 100,000 nanometers in diameter. One nanometer compares to a meter as a marble compares to the size of the earth. Materials have special characteristics and ways of behaving at that small scale.

Common, everyday objects are benefiting from nanotechnology, including sports equipment, wrinkle and stain-resistant fabrics, high-capacity batteries, UV-resistant cosmetics, flexible electronic displays, and high-efficiency solar panels. New medicines may reduce or eliminate side effects. New surgical procedures may lessen, if not eradicate, traumatic effect on the body while achieving the medical result desired.

President Obama, on a visit to the University at Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) in May 2012, said, “Right now, some of the most advanced manufacturing work in America, is being done here in upstate New York.” He also said, “You have an outstanding university. Now I want what’s happening in Albany to happen across the country.”

Syracuse can also share in that growth opportunity. NICE is one of four centers across New York State, which belongs to a SUNY consortium being developed through a partnership with CNSE.

The Syracuse nano center is projected to have about 250 jobs with an average salary of $81,000. Projections indicate that will have an impact of $20 million on the local economy annually.

The center is expected to attract other businesses which seek to interact with NICE. These operations will need employees with new skills and abilities, which will impact college offerings. Additionally, secondary employment in service establishments such as hotels, restaurants, as well as residential construction results from new job growth in manufacturing.

The CNSE Albany NanoTech Complex has 3,100 workers in six buildings. Assuming an average salary of about $92,000, those jobs add more than $250,000,000 annually in wages alone to the local economy. Because of the Albany center, Global Foundries is building the most advanced semiconductor-manufacturing facility in the world nearby in the town of Malta. It is the largest single-building capital project in the United States at this time. Global Foundries expects to employ approximately 2,000 direct jobs, 9,000 new indirect jobs, and more than 10,000 new construction jobs.

Other New York communities are also busy developing nanotechnology.

At the SUNY Institute of Technology near Utica, a three-story, state-of-the-art facility is now being constructed for $100 million plus to specialize in semiconductor research. The Computer Chip Commercialization Center (Quad C) at SUNYIT will be a 325,000-square-foot building with a world class “clean room” (26,000 square feet) for assembly and integration of system-on-a-chip, or SOC technologies, business incubator to attract chip supplies and contractors, and the first -ever Sematech center in Central New York.

The local economic-development organization Mohawk Valley EDGE is working with the SUNYIT center to attract nanotech businesses to the area. So far three companies have committed to bring 200 jobs to the Utica area.

Canandaigua, near Rochester, is home to CNSE, a Smart System Technology and Commercialization (STC) Center, working on green energy and defense applications. Recently, it was granted the prestigious “Trusted Foundry” — Aggregator status by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Cornell University, in Ithaca, has dedicated Duffield Hall, a 153,000-square-foot building with a 20,000-square-foot clean room to conduct nanotech work, and also have nanotech research being conducted at numerous other locations.

On Long Island, Brookhaven Labs also has a large nano center called The Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN).

In Troy, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) operates the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI). RPI, IBM, and New York state are in collaboration to run this $100 million venture.

During his testimony on July 14 before Congress, Chad Mirkin, Ph.D., director of the Northwestern University International Institute for Nanotechnology, stated, “The rest of the world now understands the importance of this field, and many countries are building efforts that rival what has been established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI).”

Recently, New York state received a federal job-training grant of $14.6 million, a major portion of which will go to nanotechnology training. In its May 22, 2012, issue, Small Times Magazine listed the College Nanoscale Science and Engineering and Cornell University as the number one and two universities in the U.S. for nanotechnology in the areas of research, education, facilities, industrial outreach, and commercialization.

Dennis Conard is retired, but was asked by SUNYIT to be a committee member for the Computer Chip Commercialization Center, which will focus on nanotechnology. Contact him at


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