New York State has asked Accelerate Long Island, the 4-year-old group helping local technology startups, to expand to the Hudson Valley.

Empire State Development, the state's primary business-aid agency, Thursday awarded $1.5 million to Melville-based Accelerate to invest in new companies that are commercializing research from universities and laboratories. The investments are to be made in nine counties: Nassau, Suffolk, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester.

The move represents a geographic expansion for Accelerate, which was founded in 2011 by the Long Island Association business group, Brookhaven Town and five research institutions, to create more tech businesses here.

Brian Keil, director of Empire State Development's $50- million New York State Innovation Venture Capital Fund, said Thursday it had received four applications to invest $3 million from the fund on Long Island, in New York City and in the lower Hudson Valley. Two applicants -- Accelerate and CUNY's New York City Innovest -- will equally split the money, he said.

The state had to do two solicitations to attract qualified applicants downstate.

The fund has allocated $8 million "to help commercialize very early-stage opportunities coming out of universities and research centers across the state," Keil told the Empire State Development board.

In its application, Accelerate proposed to use a SUNY Research Foundation affiliate to identify investment candidates in the Hudson Valley, according to Empire State Development spokeswoman Jola Szubielski. "Both entities [will be] collaborating on final investment decisions," she said yesterday.

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Each investment must be matched with private money.

Mark Lesko, Accelerate's director and former Brookhaven supervisor, declined to comment.

Separately, Accelerate has been investing $500,000 from the state in local startups backed by the Long Island Emerging Technologies Fund, which is funded by venture capital firms Jove Equity Partners LLC of East Setauket and Topspin Partners of Mamaroneck.

The state venture capital fund was launched by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in December. It complements the Innovate NY Fund, which also invests in startups, and consists of $35 million from the U.S. Treasury and $10 million from the Goldman Sachs investment house.