Cornell Tech celebrated a historic milestone today with the dedication of its new campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City. A collaboration of Cornell University (yes, my law school) and The Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, the 12 acre applied science and engineering campus is one of the most significant additions to the NYC landscape in the last several decades and will help solidify the City’s claim as the number two technology hub behind only Silicon Valley.
Hard to believe it’s been six years since the splashy news conference in which Cornell and The Technion were introduced as the winners of what had become a grueling competition for who would build the new campus. That announcement was itself the culmination of a strategic process that started in 2008, when a study commissioned by then Mayor Bloomberg determined that the best opportunity to replace the thousands of jobs lost in New York City in the financial crisis was in the technology sector through the creation of startup incubators, accelerators and investment funds, and that the success of these initiatives depended on the recruitment and retention of talent. In response to the study’s recommendations, Mayor Bloomberg launched a competition to build an applied science campus in New York City with a focus on entrepreneurship and job creation, with the winner to receive $100 million (a mere fraction of the ultimate cost which turned out to be in the billions) and free land.
As would be expected, the campus has some of the most environmentally friendly and energy efficient buildings in the world. And as Technion President Peretz Lavie said to me, “the campus is the most beautiful I have ever seen”. High praise.
Cornell Tech’s mission is to create “pioneering leaders and technologies for the digital age, through research, technology commercialization, and graduate-level education at the professional masters, doctoral and postdoctoral levels.” The campus will undoubtedly have an enormous impact on the innovation ecosystem in the New York City area. It will serve as a tremendous pipeline for high end technology talent. Most tech startup founders would say that their single biggest challenge is recruiting and retaining talent. Many Cornell Tech graduates will be recruited into existing startups. Others will join big tech companies. Many others will be founders themselves, and it’s predicted that there will be 600 spinouts from the campus over the next three decades. Over 30 startups have spun out already in the digital technology space, spanning consumer applications, devices, medical, media and communications.
This is just the first stage of development of the campus, which is not expected to be completed until 2043. The current faculty of 30 tenured and 60 overall is expected to grow to four times as big, and the plan is to expand the student body, currently 300, to up to as many as 2,500.