Long Island academic, business and political leaders plan to fill Stony Brook University’s fledgling Research and Development Park with as many as 11 buildings in a bid to spark the region’s economy and fortify the eastern end of a 65-mile “high-tech highway.”
“We envision a corridor that extends from New York City to Brookhaven National Laboratory,” said Stony Brook University president Samuel L. Stanley Jr., who also chairs the body that oversees the national laboratory.
Kevin Law, president and chief executive of the Long Island Association, the region’s largest business group, said the park is a key element in a strategy to use science and technology research centers to stimulate an economy slowed by its high cost structure.
The region’s pace of economic growth has averaged 1.2 percent per year since 2000, lagging the 1.6 percent national average, according to the Long Island Index 2018 report.
“Future economic growth on Long Island is largely going to emanate out of our research institutes,” said Law, who also co-chairs the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council and serves as chairman of the Stony Brook Council, a university advisory group.
Populating the decade-old research park with new facilities comes with a price tag.
More than $250 million already has gone toward acquiring the research park’s land and building the first two centers, the 100,000-square-foot Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology (CEWIT), which opened in 2008, and the 49,000-square-foot Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center, which opened two years later.
Most of that money went to St. James-based Gyrodyne Corp., which fought the state’s eminent domain offer of $26.3 million for the 245.5-acre site in the state Court of Claims, ultimately winning $167.5 million, including interest.
Two other facilities, the $60 million Innovation and Discovery Center and the $75 million Institute for Discovery and Innovation in Medicine & Engineering, or I-DIME, are expected to open in July 2019 and December 2021, respectively.
IDC is designed to house companies ready to graduate from startup incubators but not ready to rent commercial space, while I-DIME will house companies that conduct research on biomedical devices like brain chips and apply computer analytics, or “big data,” to develop pharmaceuticals.
Stanley said IDC and I-DIME will bring the research park closer to “critical mass,” so it becomes a magnet for researchers, startups and corporate tenants, and becomes more financially self-sufficient.
Nearly all the funding so far has come from Albany, with State Sen. Kenneth P. LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), chair of the Higher Education Committee, championing funding for additional research centers.
“I call this a high-tech highway from Brookhaven National Laboratory forward,” he said.
Included in the corridor envisioned by LaValle and others are Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park at Farmingdale State University, New York Institute of Technology and Northwell Health’s Feinstein Institute for Medical Research.
The research park also is courting established businesses.
Two former Long Island corporate stalwarts, enterprise software maker CA Technologies and the former Symbol Technologies bar code business acquired by Motorola in 2007, have left research facilities at CEWIT amid shifts in focus and ownership. Symbol’s business, formerly based in Holtsville, was absorbed in a 2014 acquisition by Lincolnshire, Illinois-based Zebra Technologies, while CA moved much of its development work out of its former Islandia headquarters even before its $18.9 billion acquisition announced in July by Broadcom, based in San Jose, California.
Negotiations are under way, however, that could land an unnamed major corporate tenant at CEWIT within months, a Stony Brook executive said.
Officials acknowledge that government support will be crucial in raising the hundreds of millions of dollars required to build as many as seven more centers, but they expressed hope that private money will be added to the mix.
“In the future, I want to look at public-private partnerships to build these,” Stanley said. “They’re a tool to create an ecosystem and environment where companies are going to want to come because of the human capital we can provide.”
“Gov. Andrew Cuomo has bought into this concept” in the hope of generating future economic growth, Law said. “The governor often refers to the research corridor as being similar to the Research Triangle [Park] in North Carolina.”
That facility, sitting between Duke University, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University, was one of several facilities visited by Stony Brook strategists working on developing their own research park.
The Triangle, as it is known, was founded in 1959, according to its website, when North Carolina’s annual personal income ranked 49th among all the states. The Triangle is credited with helping the state move from an economy based on tobacco, textiles and furniture. Its personal income rank sat at 18th as of the first quarter of 2018, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The early years of the Triangle “were relatively slow,” according to a retrospective story on its website, but growth exploded in 1965 when IBM announced it was building a research facility.
LaValle said the Stony Brook park also will gain momentum.
“We’re beginning to move,” he said. “That site will begin to bear fruit.”