11:20am

Wed May 23, 2012
The Upstate Economy

The case for investing in research

Investments in research take a while to pay dividends.

So says Dr. Karin Pavese, director of innovation at the New York Academy of Sciences.

At a biotechnology symposium in Syracuse Tuesday, Pavese told attendees there's great growth potential in state-backed research. But since the fruits of those investments often take many years to bloom, Pavese says politicians are often hesitant to pony up key funding.

One job created in the innovation work force - like a research position - creates three additional jobs, according to Pavese.

But standing in the way is something called the "valley of death."

New York universities and medical centers take in hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal research funding every year.

Pavese says that public money has the potential to spur significant private sector job growth - as long as the two sides are able to work together.

But getting from early stage to commercial-grade takes money.

Venture capital and smart government investment can bridge that valley, says Pavese.

But, again, politicians want quicker payoffs - with tangible benefits. Pavese says shiny buildings are a big hit.

"Because you can, at the end of the day, show a building that the money went to," Pavese says. "But investing in the operational piece, the research piece, it's harder to show at the end something in your hand and say, 'This is what your money bought.' "

Pavese says more needs to be done to educate governments on the short- and long-term benefits of funding research.

A potential fix, says Pavese, is structuring funding that forces collaboration between researchers and industry.