New York State should give the University at Buffalo both the $50 million it needs to build a facility to conduct critical materials research and the $1 million a year to run it.
The money would be an investment in the type of creative technology that is in demand worldwide, and it would build on work already being done at UB.
As reported, UB has been making strides following last year’s designation as home to a new State Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics. Albany lawmakers also provided $200,000 in start-up money.
UB President Satish K. Tripathi has met with members of the state delegation working on ways to improve the center. He told them that there is no bigger priority on the university’s wish list this year.
A new materials center could be built with some of the $1 billion funding pot designated last year by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for job creation in the Buffalo region, but that would require an industry partner and an ability to hit the ground running in creating jobs.
Tripathi also happens to be the co-chairman of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, which makes recommendations for that billion-dollar fund. But UB, as a designated State Center of Excellence, should not have to rely on that pot of money.
The Western New York region, the state and the nation stand to gain from major new investments in materials informatics.
The United States has a shortage of advanced materials for new technologies in the energy, automotive, clean tech and other industries. Research into the discovery and commercialization of these new materials, including synthetic replacements for strategic elements, is a critical need.
Building those capabilities at UB will decrease reliance on exports from China. Western New York companies would get a competitive advantage and create new-economy jobs. President Obama highlighted research in materials science as a major national effort.
Some tools are already in place at the university. Its Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus houses a world-class computer center. UB laid the groundwork years ago to specialize in this branch of nanoresearch and has hired more than 40 scientists with experience in the field and is looking for more.
The state started the ball rolling on materials research last year. Now it needs to fund the next big step at UB.