Legislation could move Rochester to top of innovation industry

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Proposed legislation called the ‘Innovation Centers Acceleration Act’ could help kickstart the Rochester economy and push the area into the forefront of the innovation industry.

The proposed bill, introduced by local congressman Joe Morelle, is aimed at investing federal dollars into innovation hubs across the country. Leaders believe that Rochester is one of the top areas for future growth.

“This is really to build the regional ability to continue to attract researchers and scientists, and make investments that will deal with workforce development, racial equity, affordable housing ect.,” said Congressman Joe Morelle, NY 25.

The Innovation Centers Acceleration Act could also help an economy hit by COVID-19.

“As we began to recover, we need to think of bold investments that will literally kick start our economy,” Congressman Morelle said.

The proposed legislation would allow regions to apply to be one of nine national innovation centers, earning $80 billion in federal investments over nine years. Areas applying for the funding must include plans to promote racial equity, increase affordable housing and create workforce development.

“Not only will this enhance our ability to be competitive globally in this growing sphere, it will strengthen our economy and create jobs at a time when they’re needed the very most,” said Congressman Morelle.

The money will go towards research grants, gradate programs, and advance research institutions in the area like the University of Rochester and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

“I don’t think would be focused on basic research, but rather how do we take the innovations from our basic science and then translate it into creating intellectual property, creating jobs and so forth,” said Sarah Mangelsdorf, president of the University of Rochester.

A Brookings Institution report found that innovation has been focused in just five national areas, but places like Rochester are identified as areas for growth, and the proposed bill could help.

“That energy is critical to enabling our companies to succeed, our community to propose, help us to attract the most talented students from across the country and around the world to this region,” said Nabil Nasr, Associate Provost for Academic Affairs at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

The proposed bill is something that Bob Duffy, President and CEO of the Rochester Chamber of Commerce says could have a huge impact on the economy.

“This will really grow our economy, grow the investment in research and Development, the investment in innovation. It is really just going to have such a good long-term effect. And besides when you look at the issues of poverty and the underserved in Rochester, they will benefit as well,” Duffy said.

The funds would be distributed through the National Science Foundation, at up to $1 billion per year for each Innovation Center.

If passed, Rochester would still need to apply and win the funding, at this time the Innovation Centers Acceleration Act has been introduced in the senate.

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