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How New York is Building its Tech Economy, One Industry at a Time

A view from the observation deck of the Empire State Building of midtown Manhattan, Rockefeller Center and Central Park in New York.

Our colleague Walter Valdivia released a new study yesterday that examines how universities can best benefit from the inventions generated within their labs and classrooms. One of the key findings is that universities must focus on creating spin-offs and supporting entrepreneurship, rather than betting heavily on lucrative patent licensing deals. 

Applied Sciences NYC was founded on this premise, and this week announced its fourth applied technology graduate campus: the Carnegie Mellon University Integrative Media Program. The CMU campus follows the flagship Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, the Center for Urban Science and Progress led by NYU in downtown Brooklyn, and Columbia's Institute for Data Science and Engineering.

The campus, which will be housed in an expanded Steiner Studios lot at the Brooklyn Navy Yard will offer degree programs in urban design, responsive environments, product design and manufacturing, social media, and gaming, among others.

New York's expansion of its Applied Sciences endeavor should remind observers that innovation, and the creation of new nationally and globally-competitive goods and services, is the critical driver of economic growth across all industries. This is not just about technology-focused companies, but moving every sector, and the products they produce and services they provide, up the value chain.

The careful way the city has chosen institutions and degree programs that match existing industry strengths or latent capacity is also important. New York is trying to marry new technologies to economic sectors that it's already strong in, such as media, medicine, and urban systems and design. These Applied Sciences institutions thus will be part of a rich network of firms and supporting institutions. Rather than striving to become the “next Silicon Valley,” cities should aim to transform into the next best version of themselves.

In New York’s case, the Integrative Media Program builds on the city’s expertise in television, film, and other media production and the city’s position as the East Coast hub of the entertainment industry, anchored by the largest film production studio outside Hollywood.

To learn more about Applied Sciences NYC, see The Metropolitan Revolution book and iPad app, which contains additional videos on the initiative.

  • Jennifer Bradley is a fellow at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program and the co-author of The Metropolitan Revolution (Brookings Press, 2013). The book, and her work in general, explain the critical role of metropolitan areas in the country’s economy, society, and politics. Jennifer has written for The New Republic, the Atlantic Monthly, Democracy, and the American Prospect. During a brief legal career, she co-authored Supreme Court briefs in cases that affirmed the constitutional powers of local governments. She has a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and MPhil from Oxford University, which she attended on a Rhodes Scholarship, and a B.A. from the University of Texas.

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