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Posted: September 5, 2008
IBM's investment in UAlbany Nanotechnology College part of a strategy to push technology education
(Nanowerk News) John E. Kelly III, IBM's director of research, gave a reality check to the upstate business community Friday.
Here's one shock: China is churning out 600,000 engineering graduates a year, more than eight times the number coming out of U.S. schools.
That's a scary thought to Kelly, who is responsible for technology innovation at IBM, which has its headquarters in Westchester County and major research and manufacturing operations along the Hudson Valley from East Fishkill to Albany.
"It's no secret that the U.S. economy is at a very critical juncture," Kelly said during a luncheon organized by Warren County's economic development arm. "We are experiencing competition from emerging countries like we've never seen before. We must decide: Do we want to fight this battle or not?"
IBM and New York state appear to have been listening to Kelly, agreeing in July to a historic $1.6 billion investment in computer-chip research in upstate New York.
The deal, most of which is being funded by IBM, is expected to create 1,000 jobs, including 325 at the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.
That follows billions of dollars of cumulative spending by IBM, the state, and such leading semiconductor manufacturing equipment companies as Tokyo Electron Ltd. and Applied Materials at the NanoCollege, Kelly noted.
"When these companies are putting hundreds of millions of dollars of investments in Albany, you know you're onto something," he said.
It doesn't appear that everyone is on the same page as Kelly.
Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-Greenport, who held an economic summit earlier in the day in Saratoga Springs, said she tried to get legislation approved that would have provided scholarships to college juniors and seniors at state schools who pursued math and science degrees. It never passed the Senate, she said.
"We wanted to generate those minds and interests now," Gillibrand said, disappointed with the lack of congressional support.
Kelly also agrees that technology education isn't getting the support it needs from Congress. He said the federal government has been reducing its spending on engineering and the physical sciences, and Congress also failed to fund a science and technology bill signed by President Bush last year called the America Competes Act.
"It was denied," Kelly said. "That's pretty sobering."