By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Architecture
New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is courting major research universities to create an East Coast version of Silicon Valley. Can it be done without funding?
Infrastructure projects create jobs; jobs create wealth and wealth, fairly dispersed, begets a stable economy.
But what if there's no funding to begin with?
New York mayor Michael Bloomberg made headlines in July when he unveiled a grand vision to build an East Coast version of California's Silicon Valley, a reborn Silicon Alley if you will, replete with top-flight research institutions (including Stanford!) and prime real estate in America's most populous and wealthy city.
Since then, we've seen a number of architectural visions for the preposed sites, as ambitious as the plan itself. But what if the project never gets off the ground?
John Gravois of New York magazine asks this very question on its Intelligencer blog:
One of the more straightforward factors that gave rise to Silicon Valley was a Cold War boom in federal research funding. And right now, the congressional supercommittee is determining, among other things, how big our own era’s bust in research funding will be. According to the American Physical Society, funding for science agencies could fall by as much as 11 percent. No less than Harvard, in its financial report for 2011, has warned of a likely “material adverse effect” on the university should government resources drop too much. “I’m a little bit afraid,” says Henry J. Eyring, co-author of the new book The Innovative University, “that building facilities for performing academic research right now may be a little bit like upsizing your home with a larger mortgage—in about 2007.”
The private sector can help ease the pain, but it won't replace the outsize presence of the federal government when it comes to funding research that has no clear commercial use. (Exhibit A: speech recognition, which took a half-century to emerge as a worthwhile investment.)
It seems this project may be stuck in neutral before it's even begun.
Mayor Bloomberg may see construction jobs in this mega-project, but perhaps what New York really needs is not a massive visual ode to a community, but the community itself. With the city already crawling with science and technology students from NYU, Columbia, Cooper Union, Rockefeller University, Cornell and others, it may be that what New York needs is further effort to knit together this disparate but preexisting community through a common, collaborative goal, instead of creating yet another physical campus walled off from the city.
Illustration: Ennead Architects/Stanford University
Nov 13, 2011
The next morning he???s lost his newfound mental abilities but he does have enough of a novel to hand in to his publisher along with a fantastically clean apartment, being that a side effect of the drug is OCD, apparently. http://www.psychny.com/
Do agree with Andrew. We have been working on the UK govt's Tech City project in London trying to create the Silicon Roundabout (yes its not a joke :) and understand the importance of engaging & working with local universities. A lot of our meetups & events are planned to be held in local Unis next year. Also to bring together Startups & Universities we run a special program to engage the two groups. Shawn Founder TechMeetups.com http://meetup.com/london-silicon-roundabout http://meetup.com/new-york-silicon-alley
Technology innovation can be assisted by a technology assessment database (to establish where the needs and market opportunities lie, and the limitations of existing solutions to the problems). That would help much more than a skyscraper filled with gurus who are ignorant of real world problems. The key will be making a choice between top-down and bottom-up innovation: the conventional ivory tower, sage-on-a-stage model, or the crowdsourced smart swarm guide-on-the-side model that the new social networking and self-directed learning tools make possible. As you point out, New York City already has a population of technical experts. It's like a symphony orchestra awaiting a composer and a conductor. Once they are made aware of the limitations of existing technologies, I believe, from my experience as an inventor (4 patents issued this year), that simple and scalable solutions will suggest themselves to sincere and knowledgeable people. Whether the present dominant players in the industries affected will accept any threat to their obsolescent inventory is another matter. New York City, the world capital of the 1%, seems like the worst imaginable choice for fostering independent thinking to meet the needs of the 99%.
Both Andrew Nusca and Wilmot McCutchen are bringing us good points to be looked at by the technical people ( including people like the first year Stanford college dropouts ). I would like to add that the locations as Silicon Valley, CA could just be the model for developing these ideas and getting the Thinkers in motion again. Don :-)