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New Griffiss Institute CEO outlines organization’s vision

By Eric Reinhardt (ereinhardt@cnybj.com)

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Heather Hage PHOTO CREDIT: MARY KHOURY

ROME, N.Y. — The new president and CEO of the Griffiss Institute in Rome says she wants the organization to be known as the global destination for teams that want to build and accelerate technology teams and companies in the technical domains on which it focuses.

The domains include for artificial intelligence/machine learning (AIML), cybersecurity, quantum computing, and unmanned-aircraft systems (UAS).

“I have a three-year view of what I think we can accomplish and where I’d like to take the organization,” says Heather Hage, who the Griffiss Institute announced on March 31 that it had selected for the top role. She spoke to CNYBJ on June 21.

In the coming year, the Griffiss Institute wants to introduce a new program called GI HUSTLE (Helping Upstate Science and Technology Leaders and Entrepreneurs). 

Hage describes it as a program as one that embodies her vision for the organization. “So, HUSTLE is going to be a programmatic element that helps us to get there,” she adds. 

Hage succeeded William Wolf, the organization’s first-ever president and CEO, who announced his retirement in September 2020. 

Hage “will expand the technical and economic impact of the Griffiss Institute and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Information Directorate, and the surrounding region, in the advancement of ongoing research, technical innovation, and entrepreneurial ventures locally, nationally, and globally,” Griffiss Institute said when announcing her selection. 

Established in 2002, the Griffiss Institute is an independent nonprofit. By partnering with the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate and connecting its technologies with private industry and academia, the Griffiss Institute says it “facilitates and grows the technology base” of the upstate New York region. 

About Hage

Hage brings 17 years of experience in technology commercialization, entrepreneurship, and nonprofit management from SUNY Research Foundation, where she most recently served as VP of industry and external affairs. There, she worked with research and development (R&D) teams across New York and around the world. Hage managed the system-wide intellectual-property portfolio to help build new companies, create and nurture R&D partnerships, and bring ideas out of university laboratories into the marketplace.

She was excited to learn about the role at the Griffiss Institute because it would represent a return home to the Mohawk Valley after spending nearly two decades in the Capital Region. 

“This is home for me,” says Hage. “This was the opportunity to take all that I learned in my blessings of service to the SUNY Research Foundation and apply it here at the Griffiss Institute … I just looked at it as the opportunity to take all the skills, all the experience, all the networks that I built in academia and draw it out to a higher purpose in supporting the Air Force, Oneida County, the City of Rome, and more broadly, the Mohawk Valley and Central New York to drive innovation and support the growth of our local tech economy.”

Hage is a graduate of Hamilton College and earned her law degree from Albany Law School of Union University. She has served on various nonprofit boards; is an adjunct faculty member for the “Innovation Intensive” programs at SUNY Polytechnic Institute and Albany Law School; and was the recipient of SUNY Research Foundation’s 2015 Woman of Excellence award, which recognizes “outstanding service, exemplary support of women in leadership, and a distinguished career,” the Griffiss Institute said. 

“Ms. Hage brings extensive expertise in innovation and entrepreneurship as drivers of economic growth and domestic competitiveness to lead the Griffiss Institute forward,” Patricia Baskinger, chair of the Griffiss Institute board of directors, said. “As the Griffiss Institute and Innovare Advancement Center undertake new opportunities in artificial intelligence/machine learning, cybersecurity, and quantum computing, it is imperative that the new president and CEO be equipped to leverage these initiatives to expand the high-tech ecosystem of the region. Ms. Hage is a natural fit for the position because of her proven leadership ability through her tenure in the SUNY system, and strong roots in our region.” 

Innovare Advancement Center

The Griffiss Institute — in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Oneida County, and New York State — has developed and built the new $14 million Innovare Advancement Center. The center is co-located with the Griffiss drone test site and Skydome, one of only seven FAA-designated test sites for drones. 

Hage says the Innovare Advancement Center is a “partnership more than it is anything else.” That partnership involves the AFRL Information Directorate, Griffiss Institute, Oneida County, the City of Rome, SUNY, and the New York State Technology Enterprise Corporation (NYSTEC). 

“The fundamental concept behind Innovare is that we would create here a magnetic ecosystem that is able to and positioned to attract diverse teams of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs, or aspiring [ones], from all over the world, not just here in the Mohawk Valley, not just in New York, not just in the U.S., but our long-term vision is to be an international hub for scientists, entrepreneurs, engineers in those technical domains (AIML, cyber, quantum, and UAS) and that would create an environment in which diverse teams comprised of those folks can thrive so that we can push new boundaries in those domains that serve [the U.S. Department of Defense], that serve our warfighters, as well as push into new commercial applications and domains that advance not only our national security but also our economic competitiveness as a country,” Hage explains.    

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