Accelerate Long Island released its much-anticipated technology startups report this week, taking the first comprehensive look at the region’s emerging innovation economy.
Regional economic development officials have long supported technology as the anchor of a post-defense Long Island economy, but the effort has never fully taken hold. Now, with the Regional Economic Development Council at the fore, and with such new programs as the state’s Start-Up NY effort, the dream of a future Tech Island appears to be nearing reality. Much more growth needed, the report suggests, but the effort has legs.
Among the report’s findings:
- Long Island’s premier research and educational facilities play a large and important role in the emerging innovation economy, but are hampered by geography and the lack of a coordinated regional plan.
- Long Island’s startup universe, though growing, is still small and fragile. While there are increasing numbers of programs focused on the whole, more should be done to nurture individual companies.
- Competition and infighting further restrict growth of a local innovation economy.
- The region suffers from a lack of vital pre-seed and proof of concept funding, especially for biotech and clean energy startups. Its angel investment community needs greater breadth.
- The Island has a chronic shortage of technology entrepreneurs and other business people who can mentor early-stage companies. There is similar demand for experienced executives to run startups spinning out of local research facilities.
- The region lacks consistent news coverage of startup companies and editorial advocacy for its efforts to grow an innovation economy, key elements in the development of other U.S. technology hubs.
- Long Island’s technology talent pool is hurt by brain drain and birth dearth, although international students are a plus. Technology companies that do start here are overwhelmingly loyal to the region.
- Co-working spaces help create the networking and educational opportunities and sense of community that help build technology ecosystems, and local governments should continue to support and encourage them.Corporate defections and off-Island mergers have led business and government leaders to reconsider the region’s long-held goal of becoming a distinct market, opening the possibility of better ties to the booming technology ecosystem in New York City. Nassau County universities – especially those with Start-Up NY programs – are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this just-emerging trend.
The innovation economy is also being bolstered by:
- The growth of Hofstra University, which has recently added an engineering program and partnered on an acclaimed medical school with the North Shore-LIJ Health System. Hofstra has also announced the creation of a Center for Entrepreneurship, to open in fall 2015, and an innovation center inside the School of Engineering.
- A soon-to-be-announced state investment seed fund to nurture tech-related startups.The success of LaunchPad Long Island, a growing chain of co-working centers.A new, college-level effort led by Accelerate Long Island to teach much-needed mentoring and leadership skills based on a model developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Small, but significant, signs of institutional cooperation, including joint research projects and a regional business plan competition.
- Increasing focus on entrepreneurship at other Long Island colleges and universities, including LIU, NYIT and Molloy.
- Steady recent investment in local technology startups, including more than $20 million by Topspin, with more promised. Topspin has also partnered with local venture firm Jove Equity Partners to provide funding for startups awarded state grants through Accelerate Long Island.
- The still-fledgling Long Island Angel Network, which has made important investments in IT and clean energy startups.
- The state’s Innovation Hot Spots program, just launching locally, which can extend tax-relief and some other benefits to off-campus incubators and co-working facilities. The reopening of the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park at SUNY Farmingdale, also a Start-Up NY site, making available more than 100,000 square feet of much-needed lab space for biotech startups.
To read the full report, go to accelerateli.org