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Lundi, 19 Décembre 2011 20:06

Can Cornell Build a Silicon Valley Culture in New York City?

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Can Cornell Build a Silicon Valley Culture in New York City?

Cornell's proposed campus on Roosevelt Island. Copyright Cornell University.

On Monday afternoon, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg will announce that Cornell University and its partner Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have been approved to build a two million square foot Roosevelt Island campus focusing on technology and engineering.

The announcement will be made at Cornell’s Weill Medical Campus in New York at 2:30 p.m., and also broadcast live on the web at Cornell’s web site. (The Wall Street Journalfirst reported Cornell’s selection on Sunday.)

Bloomberg’s office first solicited bids for a new applied sciences and technology research campus in July. The city offered public land and funding with the goal of boosting economic growth and consolidating the city’s reputation as an emerging hub for tech companies and startups.

In retrospect, Cornell seems like an inevitable choice, not least because of its longstanding ties to New York. Cornell’s medical school literally overlooks the site of the new campus across the East River. The Ivy League university upstate also has deep pockets, a strong engineering pedigree and NYC satellite campuses in Wall Street and Midtown specializing in financial mathematics, design and architecture, and co-operative learning.

Can Cornell Build a Silicon Valley Culture in New York City?

Map of Cornell's presence in Manhattan, courtesy of New York City

“We already have expertise in key areas for the New York City tech sector, and the city itself is part of our destiny,” Cornell provost Kent Fuchs said in July. “The urban environment gives us the ability to create technology transfer, contribute to the state of New York and specifically New York City’s economy. The project will allow us to implement these plans in a much bigger and faster way. This is part of our focus for the future and part of our outreach mission.”

Still, Cornell first had to contend with Stanford University and its long track record of creating a technology and business ecosystem in California’s Silicon Valley. All told, fifteen universities expressed interest and seven submitted bids, including Stanford, Carnegie-Mellon, and New York’s own Columbia University and New York University.

Just this week, Stanford surprisingly withdrew its proposal and Cornell announced a $350 million anonymous gift supporting its own. That appears to have decisively swung the deal.

According to sources speaking to the New York Times, Stanford balked at New York officials’ efforts to sweeten its bid to match parts of Cornell’s offer. Rather than haggle — common practice in east coast development projects — Stanford’s team bowed out.

Really, though, as an institution, Stanford simply doesn’t need a presence in New York in the same way that Cornell does. Its longstanding ties to Silicon Valley already help it attract students, businesses and investors looking to build the next Google. Harvard and MIT have a similar relationship with Boston. Cornell may have comparable academic chops and notable alumni successes, but with its main campus in famously remote Ithaca, it simply doesn’t have the same kind of reputation.

A major investment in New York helps change that.

Continue reading ‘Can Cornell Build A Silicon Valley Culture in New York City?‘ …

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