While Kathy Hochul (D) Amherst, was in Rochester yesterday at HTR listening to some entrepreneurs talk about how hard it is to get SBIR money, she heard from RRPC member OptiPro how successful they have been with SBIR’s (article here). Meanwhile, RRPC was hosting Mirror Tech Days, a three day conference with 110 scientists and entrepreneurs presenting the latest SBIR-funded innovations in optics and mirror technology. Lots of entrepreneurs that have had multiple SBIR grants. Program managers reaching out to small companies encouraging them to submit papers for SBIR funding.
Three weeks ago Rochester’s optics community hosted another SBIR conference with the Navy. Same thing: lots of entrepreneurs presenting the latest SBIR funded research in optics.
Yet our Albany and Washington DC delegations do not recognize optics as a strategic industry, or Rochester as the hub of this industry. They are busy on self-promotion tours or aligning themselves with our 67% approval rated governor to pit the State’s regions against one another in a competition for funding. Can’t get more cynical than that.
For the fourth year in a row the New York State governor’s office has eliminated the grant that New York Photonics used to promote our industry in schools, connect New York businesses with customers, promote the SBIR program with our members and promote New York’s OPI industry at major conferences in New York State pavilions.
The New York State governor’s office and Empire State Development do not seem to recognize optics, photonics and imaging as strategic industries for New York State, even though those technologies comprise a huge component of nanofabrication, as was evident at the Mirror Tech conference at the Rochester Hyatt Regency this week.
SBIR research dollars are not meant to be seed money for start-up businesses, and the D&C article missed that point. Rochester’s Optics, Photonics and Imaging companies have been very successful at winning SBIR contracts, commercializing the technology and adding good jobs in the process. The Mirror Tech conference in downtown Rochester might have been a good place for Hochul to stop before returning to Amherst with her glass half-empty.