By GREGORY ZELLER //
Stony Brook University’s impressive economic-development ecosystem took a home run trot Thursday during the university’s first-ever Business Incubator Showcase, held at the Center for Excellence in Wireless Information Technology.
Uniting more than 40 startup and early-stage companies stemming from CEWIT and SBU’s Center for Biotechnology, Long Island High Technology Incubator, Advanced Energy Center, Clean Energy Business Incubator Program and Business Incubator at Calverton, the showcase – which attracted special guests including investors, entrepreneurs and lawmakers – was designed to promote to the university’s commercialization chops.
It also served as a graduation ceremony, with biotech startup Codagenix – which has relocated its R&D operations to Farmingdale State College’s Broad Hollow Bioscience Park – officially bidding farewell to the LIHTI.
Dignitaries including Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn and Yacov Shamash, SBU’s vice president for economic development, turned out to honor Codagenix, a 2012 startup founded by Farmingdale State biology professor J. Robert Coleman and SBU assistant research professor Steffan Mueller.
CEWIT Executive Director Satya Sharma considers the Codagenix graduation “a wonderful thing,” and not only because “it’s great when a company grows and moves out and creates space for another startup.”
“We are here to nurture these companies that are creating next-generation technologies, which will fuel economic growth not only for Long Island, but hopefully for our state and the country,” Sharma told Innovate LI. “This is all about the potential for creating a lot more jobs.”
The CEWIT exec referenced other success stories born at the wireless/IT center, including Softheon, a health-plan management solutions provider that’s grown from 15 employees to nearly 100 and is interested in expanding its CEWIT space.
Sharma also noted CEWIT’s involvement with major-leaguers like CA Technologies, which has opened an innovation lab inside the facility, and once-and-future resident Zebra Technologies, which previously occupied roughly 3,000 square feet inside CEWIT and is now returning with a 600-square-foot mobility-innovation workshop.
“Companies like CA Technologies want to do the next generation of research, and they want to be here,” Sharma said, adding established companies are attracted by CEWIT’s “intellectual horsepower and the access to students and faculty.”
And that’s just one of SBU’s busy business incubators. Dave Hamilton, executive director of the university’s Clean Energy Business Incubator program, called the showcase – which featured eight CEBIP residents – “an outstanding event that really shines a light on Stony Brook University’s excellent economic-development group.”
Lawrence Weber, who manages business development for both CEWIT and SBU’s Sensor CAT, a NYSTAR-supported Center for Advanced Technology focused on diagnostic tools and sensor systems, agreed, noting the showcase “has really blown the barn doors off.”
“There’s a wonderful, energetic vibe in the room,” Weber said.
There’s plenty of reason to celebrate, he added, noting the Sensor CAT, which began operations in 1999, is about to cross the $400 million economic-impact threshold, factoring new hires, patents and products produced by Sensor CAT alums.
The economic-impact numbers generated by CEWIT “are being updated as we speak,” according to Weber, but appear equally strong – a testament to the intelligent design of SBU’s business-development infrastructure.
“The Centers of Excellence are designed to be at the crossroads of international research, with the idea that the state-of-the-art facilities themselves will help attract companies to the campus,” Weber said. “The Centers for Advanced technology complement that.
“Although we don’t have the same architectural footprint, we have the budget to be the bank account for companies that want to collaborate with Stony Brook University.”
The combination of potential funding sources and topflight research facilities (and researchers) is one of the reasons SBU’s incubators have long waiting lists of companies hoping to find space. CEWIT is about to welcome its newest member – CodeDx, a spinoff of longtime Northport software engineering firm Applied Visions, is slated to move in this summer – and there are plenty more where that came from.
Hamilton said the CEBIP is “constantly vetting new applicants,” while Sharma noted CEWIT is also busy combing through incubator hopefuls – and is “somewhat selective” about it, to ensure both the company and the Center for Excellence are well-served.
“We want to make sure the companies coming here fit in, in terms of these are indeed new technologies, and not just a me-too kind of thing,” Sharma said. “This helps the faculty and the university as a whole, because we want to focus on research that is relevant.
“And not just fundamental research but also applied research,” he added. “These incubators help us see the problems that need to be solved and focus on how to solve them, and that’s what keeps us relevant.”