Innovative tech-incubator campus evolving in New York
AOL invests in research lab of Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute.
One of the biggest signs that you're doing something right in the tech world is when huge tech companies want to get involved. The people who run the Cornell Tech graduate school, whose new campus is being built in New York City, find themselves in that position, with the likes of Google and AOL investing in the new school.
Construction of the new 2 million-square-foot Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, a narrow strip of land between Manhattan and Queens, began early last year, with the first phase of the campus expected to open in the summer of 2017. But Cornell Tech's second-ever semester is already underway, with classes being held in office space donated entirely by Google.
In November, AOL got involved, endowing the Connected Experiences Laboratory (ConnX) project at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, a dual university program between Cornell Tech and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa.
ConnX is a four-year partnership with AOL to bring graduate students in contact with the company's programmers and executives to develop prototypes and stage experiments together.
Eoin Ryan, an AOL spokesman in New York, said they will be using the data to improve content, services and insight delivered across their media platforms.
“We have a large presence in New York and Israel, and this is a great way to connect with the up-and-coming tech community on a higher learning level,” Ryan told From The Grapevine. “Students extend what they’re learning in the classroom and see how those practices are employed in the marketplace.”
For these big tech companies, getting access to young programmers now could mean access to important startups in the future.
AOL opened a startup incubator at its offices in Tel Aviv this year. AOL Israel, itself, was actually a startup created by young programmers that AOL bought to power AOL On Network, its giant video syndication division. (AOL's original "killer app," the AIM instant message program, was also created by young techies in Tel Aviv, circa 1996.)
The idea of connecting business to young minds at Tech Cornell was from businessman and New York's then-mayor, Michael Bloomberg, in 2011, when City Hall chose Cornell and Technion to build a tech-centered campus on Roosevelt Island to help boost the city’s economic development.
A key component of Cornell Tech is ventures, such as AOL's ConnX, all to be part of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute. The name comes from computer chip maker Qualcomm's Founding Chairman Irwin Jacobs and his wife, Joan, who are benefactors of the school.
In 2012, Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page (left) announced that Cornell Tech classes will be housed in Google office space while the new campus is built. Page is with Cornell University president David Skorton, Technion director Craig Gotsman and then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Students in the Jacobs Institute explore fields involving computer science, business and entrepreneurship with a focus on three core industries: media, health care and the environment. Those who successfully complete the two-year program will receive dual graduate degrees from the New York and Israel schools, unlike most other Cornell Tech graduate students, who only receive a degree from Cornell.
The goal is to turn research into new businesses, as Technion is known to do successfully, Adam Shwartz, director of the Jacobs Institute, told From The Grapevine.
“From Cornell's perspective, with Israel’s reputation as the ‘Startup Nation’ and the Technion’s history of producing the country’s leading tech entrepreneurs, there was a common vision for Cornell Tech," he said. The partnership with Cornell pairs “Technion’s expertise in applied research and tech transfer and Cornell’s exemplary research, teaching and entrepreneurial programs.”
Technion already has lined up four startup companies launched by post-doctoral students and incubated at Cornell Tech, Boaz Golany, Technion’s vice president for external relations and resource development, told From The Grapevine. The Cornell Tech campus is projected to generate 600 startup companies over the next three decades.
Researchers from both schools will be able to study such issues as communication and coordination, food and wellness, education and safety, and information and entertainment. Half of the students in a new graduate fellowship program, also being offered, are expected to be women.
In keeping with its emphasis on cutting-edge technology and innovation, Cornell Tech is being designed as one of the most environmentally sensitive and energy-efficient campuses in the world, with net-zero energy academic buildings using solar panels on its rooftops and geothermal wells for heating and cooling. Other sustainable features include more than 2.5 acres of diverse open spaces, scenic views and a river-to-river experience, capitalizing on Roosevelt Island’s natural setting in the East River.
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