New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo talks during a cabinet meeting...

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo talks during a cabinet meeting at the Capitol on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, in Albany. Credit: AP / Mike Groll

How can Long Island revitalize its ailing economy?

One of the most promising ideas has been to harness the research prowess of our universities and laboratories to transform the region's economy into one based on innovation. In other words, turn scientific advancement into commercial enterprise. That still-nascent effort got a nice boost earlier this month from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's regional economic development awards.

Several promising projects received some $11 million in jump-start funding. Each carries a certain amount of risk -- none is a guaranteed success -- but that's the nature of investment. Payoffs can be intermittent, but big.

The projects funded were among dozens of Long Island proposals given $82 million overall in what's become an annual competition among regions around the state. Long Island's economic development council, under the direction of Long Island Association president Kevin Law and Hofstra University president Stuart Rabinowitz, has become good at winning this competition, having secured $322 million over the four years of its existence. Projects in the first three years created 1,600 construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs, with more projected when projects are completed. The latest round anticipates producing 1,814 construction jobs and 1,077 permanent, often well-paying, jobs. Long Island needs every one of them.

Stony Brook University received $1 million to help create the only center in the nation to research the cybersecurity of the energy grid, and will add 40 highly skilled engineering jobs. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory got $1.5 million for a center to study metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity; the research, critical locally and nationally, also could sprout new bio-tech firms.

Molloy College landed $1 million for a new center in West Sayville with an intriguing mission: to study the modest horseshoe crab and its ability to detect bacterial contamination. That could lead to new ways to prevent sepsis and other bacterial infections from occurring in people -- and attract aquaculture and bio-pharma firms.

Long Island University was given $500,000 to help convert a Gold Coast mansion into a business incubator, part of a new research, innovation and technology park on the campus. More money went to Hofstra for a STEM Center dedicated to the fields of science, technology, engineering and math; Adelphi University for a nursing innovation lab, and New York Institute of Technology for a STEM lab to train minority students, women and veterans.

Conventional job-producers were funded, too -- such as infrastructure projects expected to help boost communities including Wyandanch, Huntington Station and Hampton Bays. There was money for coastal resiliency and storm mitigation in both counties, and the Peconic Land Trust received $1 million to help the next generation of East End farmers purchase equipment to make them more efficient and to help them withstand pressure from developers to sell their farms.

State money has set the table for innovation. Now it's up to the funded ventures to provide a payoff. Long Island is counting on it.