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Schumer Created NSF Regional Innovation Engines Competition In His CHIPS & Science Bill, Specifically With Places Like Rochester And Upstate NY In Mind; Now, After His Direct Advocacy, U of R Has Been Selected As Phase One Awardee And Can Now Compete For Major Fed $$$ To Grow The Finger Lakes Laser Tech Ecosystem

U of R Proposal Would Supercharge Finger Lake’s Workforce, Boosting Education And Training for Good-Paying Jobs, Develop New Cutting-Edge Laser Facilities, And Help Attract Tech Companies To The Region 

Schumer, Gillibrand, Morelle: U of R’s Selection For NSF Regional Innovation Engines Competition Is A Game Changer—And We Are Laser Focused On Growing Rochester As America’s Leader In Laser Technology

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and U.S. Congressman Joe Morelle today announced that the National Science Foundation (NSF) has selected the University of Rochester as a $1 million awardee and finalist for investment through its Regional Innovation Engines Program to further grow the region as America’s preeminent laser research and development hub. Schumer helped create this program at the NSF through his CHIPS and Science Bill that passed into law last year, first proposing it as part of the new NSF Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships in his Endless Frontier Act, specifically with places like Rochester and Upstate New York in mind. Schumer, Gillibrand and Morelle said this means the University of Rochester will receive a $1 million award to develop its proposal to supercharge laser technology research in the Rochester region and can now compete in a next phase for up to a $160 million in federal investment to bring Rochester’s laser ecosystem to the next frontier.

"This $1 million National Science Foundation grant and chance to compete for a bigger national prize is BIG news for the University of Rochester to help further establish the Finger Lakes region as America’s leader in laser technology. I created the NSF Regional Innovation Engines program in my CHIPS & Science Bill with places like Rochester in mind, and now U of R has the opportunity to compete for up to $160 million to train our workforce for good-paying jobs and further advance critical research and development and entrepreneurship that will bring us to the next frontier of laser technology” said Senator Schumer. “This would revolutionize Rochester’s tech workforce, creating new programs from technical education at our community colleges for manufacturing careers to helping train the next generation of our nation’s top scientific minds, all while helping attract new employers and creating good-paying jobs. I am proud to deliver this $1 million Phase One award and I am laser focused on making Rochester the epicenter of cutting-edge innovation and building America’s scientific future.”

“The University of Rochester is a national leader in cutting-edge laser research,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This funding will help the university continue to make important scientific advancements and bring good-paying jobs to the Rochester region. I’m proud to have worked to pass the CHIPS and Science Bill to help secure this funding and I wish U of R luck in the next round of the competition.”

Congressman Morelle said, “Majority Leader Schumer, Senator Gillibrand and I have long said that Rochester’s unique expertise and world-class academic institutions, like the University of Rochester, put us in a strong position to lead the nation in high-tech innovation. This award is further proof of the extraordinary work our community is doing and the limitless potential Rochester holds. I congratulate UR on this significant investment and look forward to our continued work together to grow the future of innovation.”

“I want to thank Senator Schumer for his leadership and vision for helping create this program to promote greater equity in the innovation economy and allow good ideas to develop and thrive wherever they may be found,” said University of Rochester President Sarah Mangelsdorf. “I also want to thank him, Sen. Gillibrand and Rep. Morelle for their incredible support for our efforts to build on our laser expertise to create and grow a diverse, workforce-focused laser ecosystem in Rochester and the Finger Lakes region that reinvigorates U.S. global competitiveness, scientific leadership, and technological preeminence in a broad range of key applications like advanced manufacturing, energy, medicine and national security to just name a few.”

The representatives explained that the University of Rochester’s project proposal, officially named “A Rochester Innovation Engine for Advancing the Science, Technology, and Engineering of Lasers and Laser Applications Research (STELLAR),” is designed to create and grow an ecosystem in the region that advances the science, technology, and engineering of lasers to provide U.S. based sources of next generation lasers for scientific, industrial, manufacturing, energy, biomedical, and national security applications. The project will enhance opportunities for a community college-based technical education in laser technologies, build laser-specific degree programs into engineering education, establish specialized laser facilities for startup companies, and define projects aimed at solving some of the major challenges in both laser technology and the regional economy.

Schumer created the NSF’s Regional Innovation Engines Program in his CHIPS & Science Bill as a program that falls under the newly created NSF Directorate of Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships.  Schumer proposed the creation of this Directorate originally in his bipartisan Endless Frontier Act, with a focus on delivering investment in research, workforce training, and entrepreneurship in key technology areas like lasers.

This builds on Schumer’s long history of promoting Rochester’s innovation ecosystem to the NSF. Last year he personally brought Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan, Director of the NSF, to the University of Rochester to show how Rochester’s workforce is primed for this kind of federal investment. Schumer also personally wrote to the NSF in support of the University of Rochester’s application for the Regional Innovation Engines Program. Last year, the senator also helped deliver the largest dollar increase for the NSF in history, for a total of over $10.8 billion, which supports the Regional Innovation Engines Program and will help provide a major boost to tech ecosystems like Rochester’s.

This project is a breakthrough study for the University of Rochester, who has been a leader in laser technology innovation for years. Schumer, Gillibrand, and Morelle have been relentless advocates for growing Rochester’s laser lab, working to both save and increase funding for Rochester’s Laser Lab and the overall DOE ICF program which supports the LLE, LLNL, and Sandia National Lab’s Z Pulsed Power Facility. In 2018, after a budget proposal recommended to defund the Laser Lab within three years and eliminate hundreds of high-tech jobs in Rochester, the Representatives launched an all-out push to reverse the closure plan and instead increase funding for the Lab. Later that same year, they announced that their push to reject the proposed cuts was successful, and since then, they’ve consistently delivered robust funding increases to the Lab and ICF program to make discoveries like today’s possible. Schumer, Gillibrand, and Morelle helped secure $75 million in FY2018, $80 million in FY2019 & FY2020, $82 million in FY2021, and $83 million in FY2022.

The NSF Regional Innovation Engines program catalyzes and fosters innovation ecosystems across the United States to advance critical technologies and grow innovation industries across America. Each NSF Engine can receive up to $160 million to support the development of diverse regional coalitions of researchers, institutions, companies and civil society to conduct research and development that engages people in the process of creating solutions with economic and societal impacts. You can read more about the program here.

A copy of Schumer’s letter of support to the National Science Foundation for Rochester appears below:

Dear Director Panchanathan:

I am pleased to write in support of the application submitted by University of Rochester to the

National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Regional Innovation Engines program.

With funding, the University of Rochester will pursue its project, Type-1: A Rochester

Innovation Engine for Advancing the Science, Technology, and Engineering of Lasers and Laser

Applications Research (STELLAR). The STELLAR Type-1 planning grant will help lay the groundwork

to build on the existing potential in the Rochester region and ensure U.S.-based sources of next generation

lasers for scientific, industrial, manufacturing, energy, biomedical and national security applications.

Catalyzing such potential is vital for ensuring the nation remains on the cutting edge of new innovations

in this important field, ultimately advancing critical technologies, addressing societal and economic

challenges, and boosting our nation’s global competitiveness.

I applaud the University of Rochester for its foresight, and sincerely hope the application meets

with your approval.

Thank you for your consideration.