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Schumer Doubles Down On Boosting Rochester As A Tech Center; Will Personally Bring NSF Top Brass To University of Rochester To See How The Finger Lakes Region Can Drive American Tech Leadership

Schumer’s U.S. Innovation & Competition Act Is Slated To Make Major Investments In NSF And Tech Hubs, And Grow NY Tech Companies, And Manufacturing

Schumer To National Science Foundation: Come See For Yourself Everything Rochester Has To Offer – From Laser Lab To A Topnotch Tech Workforce – The Finger Lakes Region Is Ready To Supercharge U.S. Tech Leadership

As the National Science Foundation prepares to make major investments in boosting U.S. innovation and technological competitiveness, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced that following his personal invitation, he will bring Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan, Director of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) to the University of Rochester next week to tour their research facilities and show NSF top brass how the Finger Lakes region is primed to drive America’s tech leadership. Schumer explained that his bipartisan U.S. Innovation and Competition Act will make significant investments in federal research and development (R&D), entrepreneurship, STEM education and workforce training, and domestic manufacturing. This jobs and competitiveness legislation will increase funding for the NSF, including to support a newly create Directorate of Technology and Innovation to support research and technology development in key technology focus areas, such as artificial intelligence and quantum science, in order to strengthen the global leadership of the United States in innovation. Major activities would include funding research and development at collaborative institutes, supporting academic technology transfer and intellectual property protection, establishing technology testbeds, and awarding scholarships and fellowships to build the relevant workforce. The bill also creates a $10 billion regional technology hub program to support regional economic development in innovation. Technology hubs would carry out workforce development activities, business and entrepreneur development activities, technology maturation activities, and infrastructure activities related to the technology development. The senator said that Rochester and Upstate New York are very well positioned to compete for investment from these programs to help surge U.S. innovation, and next week he will show the NSF Director firsthand the region’s incredible workforce and research facilities that, with further federal backing, can continue to make groundbreaking discoveries to ensure the U.S. continues to lead in critical technologies.

“We are in a global race with competitors like China to maintain U.S. leadership in technology and manufacturing, which is important to national security and to American jobs, including jobs across Upstate New York. When I wrote the bipartisan U.S. Innovation & Competition Act, I had places like Rochester at the forefront of my mind that have topnotch research facilities and workforces and with increased federal investment, can help drive U.S. innovation. As I work to pass this critical legislation into law, I want to prepare New York to tap a surge in federal R&D investment, which is why now is time for the National Science Foundation to see firsthand what I have long known, that Upstate New York is ready to lead America in tech research, development, and manufacturing,” said Senator Schumer. “That is why I personally invited NSF Director, Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan, to the University of Rochester to see just how uniquely suited the Finger Lakes region is to receive further federal investment and drive not only the Upstate economy into the future, but the entire nation’s.”

Schumer added, “The stakes are enormous. If we do not invest now in the research, development, and manufacturing of the technologies of today and of the future, we risk falling behind in the race with China and other global competitors, jeopardizing U.S. jobs, U.S. competitiveness, and national security.”

Schumer explained that the United States’ position as the unequivocal global leader in scientific and technological ingenuity and innovation is under pressure from other countries, like China, and is eroding. U.S. competitiveness and national security are being threatened by decades of U.S. underinvestment in research, manufacturing, and workforce development, coupled with foreign competitors stealing American intellectual property and aggressively investing to dominate the key technology fields of today and of the future. Schumer said that without a significant and sustained increase in investment in research, education and training, technology transfer and entrepreneurship, manufacturing, and the broader U.S. innovation ecosystem across the nation, it is only a matter of time before America’s global competitors overtake the U.S. in terms of technological primacy, threatening national security and economic growth.

Schumer cited a recent study authored by MIT Economists Dr. Jonathan Gruber and Simon Johnson in their book, “Jump-Starting America: How Breakthrough Science Can Revive Economic Growth and the American Dream”, that concluded millions of new jobs could be created through a new federal effort to boost federal funding for the sciences.  They analyzed 102 regions to determine which are best poised to become new Tech-Economy hubs if provided federal scientific research & development investment and determined that Rochester, NY ranked No. 1 as the nation's top region ripe for technological and economic growth. The authors argued for the creation of a bold new federal investment in science and technology, such as would be created now through Schumer’s bipartisan U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA).

USICA includes many notable provisions that significantly bolster the NSF’s ongoing funding efforts that could benefit Rochester. These include increasing funding levels for NSF’s core research programs, creating a new Directorate of Technology and Innovation at the NSF to support R&D in key technology focus areas, increasing STEM education to enhance the domestic STEM workforce, and support for technology transfer and entrepreneurship programs. Schumer said that these major increases put cutting-edge facilities like the OMEGA Laser Facility at University of Rochester and the region’s other research institutions in a unique position to benefit from further federal investment. The legislation also significantly scales the Manufacturing Extension Program, which supports programs like NextCorps in Rochester to help small and mid-sized manufacturers better compete, and creates a supply chain resiliency program, which combined with a historic $52 billion investment in domestic semiconductor manufacturing, will help address supply chain vulnerabilities that are driving up costs on working families and disrupting the economy.

Schumer led USICA to Senate passage in June of last year. The House passed its companion legislation, the America COMPETES Act this past January. Schumer is now working through further Senate votes to enter into a formal conference committee to reconcile differences between the Senate- and House-passed bills to pass final legislation for President Biden to sign into law.

A copy of Schumer’s original letter inviting Dr. Panchanathan, Director of the National Science Foundation to Upstate New York appears below:

Dear Dr. Panchanathan:

As the National Science Foundation (NSF) prepares to make major investments in boosting U.S. innovation and technological competitiveness, including through the newly established Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships that I have been proud to work with you on, I invite you to visit the University of Rochester in order to see first-hand how Upstate New York communities like Rochester are uniquely poised to lead these efforts and learn more about how investments by NSF are pushing the frontiers of science.

New York State has long been on the cutting-edge of science and technology. In particular, the City of Rochester has a storied history of innovation, as the birth place of major companies including Eastman-Kodak, Xerox, and Bausch & Lomb. In fact, Rochester was highlighted as the top ranked community for potential new technology hubs in MIT Professors Jonathan Gruber and Simon Johnson’s Jump-Starting America and was also highlighted in the Brookings report, The Case for Growth Centers. A major reason behind these rankings is the combination of major research assets like the University of Rochester with a technologically sophisticated community capable of conducting world-class research and translating that research into new businesses and American leadership in innovation.

As an example, a 2018 report by the National Academies warned that the U.S. is at risk of losing its global leadership in intense ultrafast lasers, an approximately $2 trillion market that is important to a wide range of industry, medicine, scientific and commercial applications. While the technique that makes these lasers possible was invented at the University of Rochester, at present, 80 to 90 percent of high-intensity laser systems are now overseas. In response, scientists from the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) led the organization of the Brightest Light Initiative (BLI) workshop to develop a national strategy. In addition, LLE, already home to the most powerful laser systems found at any academic institution in the world, has proposed EP-OPAL a next-generation user facility that would achieve powers 5 times greater, with focused intensities up to 100 times greater, than any currently operating laser. This effort is indicative of the kind of leadership Rochester and Upstate NY can provide to ensure the U.S. out-competes the world in critical technologies.

I hope you will join me in the near future in Rochester to tour the Laboratory for Laser Energetics to see this potential first-hand, learn what the needs may be for federal investment and partnership, and to meet the University of Rochester’s amazing scientists, staff, and students working to ensure continued U.S. science and technology leadership.