Editorial: Long Island can rebound from high-tech setback

Esther Takeuchi holds a sample of electrode material Esther Takeuchi holds a sample of electrode material that could be used in new batteries for applications such as biomedical devices, power grid storage and transportation. (Aug. 1, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

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It's no fun to lose a high-stakes bid to win federal dollars. Yes, Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory failed to be designated an energy innovation hub for battery research. But there's still a chance that future battery breakthroughs -- so vital to harnessing solar and wind energy, and powering energy-efficient autos -- will happen here on Long Island.

The lab and Stony Brook thought they had made a strong application to the U.S. Department of Energy to locate its Batteries and Energy Storage Hub here. One key strength of the application was their joint appointment of Esther Takeuchi, a stellar battery researcher. And they did make it to the final round. But the federal grant, worth up to $120 million over five years, went to Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois.

That's a disappointment, but not a devastation. For one thing, the Long Island application didn't lose to an inferior candidate. Argonne's qualifications include work on the batteries that power the Chevrolet Volt, plus a longer history of battery research than the Stony Brook-BNL collaboration has.

Despite the disappointment, Takeuchi and her glittering resume are not going anywhere. And there are other pots of money for battery research than the Department of Energy. For example, the Department of Defense spends billions of dollars on energy storage. So the Stony Brook-BNL collaboration, led by Takeuchi, might well be able to find other sources of funding. Meanwhile, this setback has further strengthened the resolve of both institutions to be difference-makers in this crucial research field.

Building a strong, diverse high-tech economy here is tough. There will be losses, like the battery hub. But there are also small advances, like a new strategic alliance among the business organizations Accelerate Long Island, the Long Island Forum for Technology and Long Island Software Technology Network.

Through good news and bad, we have no choice but to keep striving, because, if our region is to have a vibrant economic future, high-tech has to be at its core.

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