DEBRIEF: Nada Anid, NYIT

Nada AnidNada Anid: The line starts here.

Dean of the School of Engineering and Computing Sciences and an expert in commercial-academic partnerships, emerging technologies, sustainability and STEM education on the K-12 level, Dr. Nada Anid is a key shepherd of Long Island’s innovation economy. As the first female dean in the history of NYIT’s engineering and computing sciences program, Anid has strong viewpoints on the importance of introducing female students to traditionally male-dominated fields. And as a true believer in the economic power of science, Anid heralds the recent opening of NYIT’s Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation Center as a cornerstone Long Island moment. Her credentials: A Ph.D. in environmental engineering from the University of Michigan and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Anid sat down recently with Innovate LI’s Gregory Zeller.

THIS JUST IN: The opening of our new Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation Center is very exciting. It was in the making for four years, a $2.4 million renovation of a wing of Harry Schure Hall on the Old Westbury campus. Now that it’s completed, we can start hosting small businesses and have them work hand-in-hand with our faculty and students in key areas of great interest to Long Island: IT, cyber, bioengineering, bioinformatics, energy and clean technologies.

BEFORE-THE-JOB TRAINING: Through these focal points, we’re going to bring industry into the classroom. Our students will no longer need to find internships, because the internships will be right here, within our walls. And industry will no longer have to go look for talent, because it will already be working with our students and professors. We’re very excited that we’ve reached this point. We believe this will effectively contribute to the Long Island innovation economy.

COMING SOON: The center already has a strong lineup of potential partners – some of them are global – that are ready to start. We’re hiring a business-development expert and working out agreements with these companies. The business accelerator can hold between eight and 10 companies, and then of course we have a large collaborative area where projects can be executed, and our research labs are also open to commercial participants.

BEYOND GRUMMAN: Tech, biotech and the rest are absolutely Long Island’s best economic hope. Let’s stop talking about the past, about the defense industry that left us. We thought software would be our forte after that, but it wasn’t just software – it was software, hardware, biotech, a combination of all of these.

MISSING LONG ISLAND LINK: We still don’t have that one voice encompassing all of these niches. We need more than just a “focus.” We need to know who’s on the Island, who’s doing what. We have startups and we have companies moving in and we have companies growing, but we’re all over the place. Too spread out. We need one entity looking at all of these trends, tracking them, maybe even showing them on a map, so we can establish geographic proximity and have a hub for medical devices, a hub for biotech. We just don’t have the kind of networking you have in Boston or Silicon Valley.

ON TASK: I’m a member of the new Nassau County Tech Task Team and I think it’s a great initiative. But we need a strategy to move forward. We’ve had one meeting and we have an agenda, but no strategy yet. In the end, what you want is new jobs. You want students to stay here. So this connection with educational institutions, that’s my angle. I’m looking to bridge the employer side to what we’re teaching in the classroom.

EXPANSION TEAM: The Nassau tech team is good, but if we could create an equivalent in Suffolk and then merge them into one entity, then we’d have one strong network. The first thing we’re working on is a career fair that will be open to all of Long Island, and I think that’s a very important detail.

ENGENDERING: This week I attended the annual U.S. Engineering Deans Council meeting and co-moderated a panel on diversity. Yes, we are making progress, but much more needs to be done. Right now, only 12 percent of engineering deans in this country are women, and in technology the numbers are even worse: Only 3 percent of technology professionals are women, and only 5 percent of U.S. patents are held by women.

START YOUNG: Change has to happen in board rooms. There has to be a decision at the top to set goals and to look to bring competent women into the business. And then you have to look at the pipelines that get them there. That’s why K-12 education becomes so important, why undergraduate college education becomes so important. What conversations are we having with parents and teachers? What are we teaching our female students? Are they tech literate? Is programming going to become required learning for everyone? These are big questions that will affect many people – and the answers are how we’ll start to get concrete results over time.