FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 20, 2012
SCHUMER URGES WHITE HOUSE TO PARTNER WITH UNIV. AT BUFFALO & BACK CUTTING-EDGE RESEARCH IN DEVELOPMENT OF SYNTHETIC RARE EARTH ELEMENTS; PARTNERSHIP WOULD HELP COMBAT CHINA'S ILLEGAL HOARDING OF CRITICAL MINERALS
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the Obama administration’s Office of Science and Technology to hold a meeting with the State University of New York’s University at Buffalo to help the institution lead the way in cutting-edge research to develop synthetic substitutes for natural materials, like rare earth elements, that are critical to the growth of high-tech businesses and manufacturers. Of all rare earth elements that are industrially mined, 97% are controlled by China, and their trade policies have stifled the international supply of these materials that are important to a number of Buffalo companies.
The University at Buffalo’s mission to expand research and develop technologies to produce synthetic materials that can serve as substitutes to these important minerals is directly in line with the administration’s Materials Genome Initiative (GMI), established in 2011 to improve U.S. global competitiveness and ensure that the U.S remains at the forefront of the advanced materials marketplace. Schumer is urging the administration’s Office of Science and Technology to meet with University at Buffalo officials to develop a successful partnership that meets their shared mission.
The University at Buffalo recognizes the critical role that rare earth elements plays for job-creating businesses and manufacturers in Buffalo and across the country, and has invested in Material Informatics, the study and creation of these natural elements and minerals in a laboratory. UB is in a prime position to lead this cutting-edge research and to commercialize that research into business success. In recent months, the Chinese government has imposed strict export restraints and sky-high export taxes on rare earth elements. This has meant a cheap and plentiful flow of rare earth elements within China, and an expensive and drastically limited global supply. The Chinese government's actions have created yet another unfair advantage for Chinese manufacturers, causing markedly higher costs increases for high-tech and manufacturing companies in New York that produce items ranging from batteries to wind turbines, and from laser-guided weapons to night vision goggles. As the White House increasingly focuses on combating China’s rare earth policy and developing research clusters to translate innovation into new business and jobs, Schumer wants to ensure that the University at Buffalo is in prime position to tap into federal investments in these areas.
I write to request that you meet with a team from the State University of New York’s University at Buffalo to discuss a potential future partnership in materials informatics. President Obama has continued to demonstrate his commitment to the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) for Global Competitiveness and I believe that the University at Buffalo has many of the strengths needed to advance this effort.
For a number of years I have been advocating for a tougher crackdown on the Chinese policy of hoarding rare earth elements. Indeed, we need to continue to pressure the Chinese to make these elements available to US manufactures, but that is only a piece of the puzzle. We also need to build on existing research strength and help American innovators develop the knowledge needed to produce synthetic substitutes for these rare earth elements.
Over the past seven years, the University at Buffalo has developed areas of research strength in materials science, chemistry, physics, electrical engineering, and informatics. These research strengths along with the vision of the University’s President Satish Tripathi and Vice President for Research Alexander Cartwright position the University at Buffalo to be a national leader in materials informatics and a logical partner for the MGI.
The University at Buffalo is also strategically positioned to successfully commercialize the research they conduct in this field. With a tremendous amount of potential local industry partners in both the energy and high tech fields as well as a strong track record of commercializing research in the field of life sciences, the University at Buffalo will not only be a strong research partner but will also help drive economic development with this partnership.
Given the University’s strengths and the importance of this initiative to our overall national priorities I urge you to meet with the University at Buffalo’s materials informatics team as soon as possible. I will continue to support their pursuit of this important mission and I hope you will do the same.