RPI President Urges Regional, Collaborative Approach to Innovation

Thursday, May 4, 2023


Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's president is committed to making the university a leader in regional collaboration.

At the university's "Invest in the Capital Region" event Wednesday, Martin Schmidt said during a panel discussion about how to build the life sciences ecosystem in the region that he's aiming to collaborate with other institutions in the area and find ways to translate innovation out of universities.

Schmidt said that RPI is in the process of developing a strategic plan over the next six to 18 months, a pillar of which is helping to move innovation beyond the university. Schmidt said uniting the big regional players, like hospitals, colleges and businesses is one step.

"We have to think about how to the institutions in this region that are deeply committed to being here, how are they going to work together collaboratively to create infrastructure?" Schmidt said.

Schmidt, who spent more than 40 years at MIT, pointed to the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as an example — a collaboration between MIT, Harvard and Harvard-affiliated hospitals to advance biomedical research.

"I think as a region, we have to come together and look for those opportunities. What are those opportunities?" he said.

Fellow panelist Vikram Agrawal, president and CEO of Levrx Technology, said programs and resources like incubator space were key in launching his first company, Etransmedia Technology, out of RPI, as it was a shared ecosystem on campus that allowed entrepreneurs to come together. The space was founded in 1980 and closed in 2010.

"RPI has to take the lead. And most of the local companies that are successful you can trace back over the last 30 years, all originated in the incubator," Agrawal said.

"RPI had that model," he continued. "I think we need to go back to that."

In all, Schmidt emphasized a regionalist mindset in growing the ecosystem of innovation in the Capital Region.

"When we're arguing about whether the next opportunity should be in Cohoes, or Troy, or Guilderland ... that's small ball. That's really small ball. The leadership in the region needs to be able to think in a less parochial way," Schmidt said.

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