Editorial | CUNY innovation benefits society and our economy


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Researchers at the City University of New York have developed a device that integrates indoor navigation with augmented reality to help rescuers navigate in poorly lit and potentially dangerous spaces to evacuate people in danger.

The group of researchers, made up of faculty, staff and a graduate student from City College of New York, Borough of Manhattan Community College, and the CUNY Office of Research, are refining technology that could one day save lives. . Their invention will be marketed as a smartphone app, providing real-time maps and step-by-step navigation, and eliminating the need for expensive 3D sensors and scanners currently on the market.

The minds behind this exciting project received training and funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and are the beneficiaries of CUNY’s decade-long campaign to provide academic researchers with the insight, resources and networks to translate their inventions into commercially viable businesses.

The idea is that if CUNY’s brightest academics in science, engineering, and technology can produce breakthroughs that address real-world problems, their findings will have multiple benefits: diversifying the field. STEM workforce, establishing new pathways to employment for our graduates and, in turn, driving a more equitable and inclusive economy.

CUNY’s emphasis on harnessing the creativity of its research community can be seen in a range of new academic programs that advance these goals for the benefit of society and the economic development of our region.

City College recently won a $ 750,000 “Build to Scale” grant from the US Economic Development Administration (EDA) to fund the creation of the Center for Co-Innovation and Medical Technology, which seeks to bring product concepts to market through the development of medical technologies that address unmet clinical needs. The project, which will bring many new STEM-related jobs to Harlem, will also receive $ 750,000 in local matching funds from City College and a philanthropic donor.

The same entrepreneurial spirit is found in the Blackstone Charitable Foundation project summer announcement to bring its Blackstone LaunchPad entrepreneurship and skills-building program to nine CUNY colleges, a commitment of $ 6 million to support career mobility. Students will receive resources and guidance to expand their mentoring networks, enabling them to seek employment opportunities and create their own start-ups.

Leading the push

And in particular, from January, CUNY will oversee the New York Region Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Hub, an exciting $ 15 million program funded by the federal government established by the NSF to provide entrepreneurial training and mentorship to various academic researchers. The award is the largest NSF has ever awarded to CUNY and will enable these inventors to develop their scientific and technical discoveries into products and create the businesses necessary to bring them to market.

The New York Region I-Corps Hub has a related goal: to give our brightest minds the guidance they need to get their innovations out of the lab and into the market.

Through him, CUNY will lead a consortium of eight local colleges that includes Columbia University and New York University, who will work together to identify product opportunities and lead the creation of startups run by responding students and faculty. to real world concerns.

Working as a team, guided by industry professionals and supported by seed money from NSF, faculty researchers and students will strive to identify promising product opportunities and form start-ups for them. market. CUNY will oversee approximately 30 I-Corps teams after the program is launched.

The I-Corps hub will allow teacher-researchers and graduate students like those who produced the inland navigation system to refine their technological discovery, extend its production and commercialize it. Their experience illustrates the immense value of the I-Corps program.

Initially, they designed the technology as a tool to help the blind and visually impaired, but a seven-week I-Corps workshop last spring walked them through a rigorous customer discovery process, which showed a limited market for such a product. Through more than 100 interviews with architects, building managers, construction workers and firefighters, however, they determined that their product could meet a great need for safe navigation by emergency responders. The inventors have adapted the technology and it is being tested at 10 sites in New York State. They are now applying for a patent.

This is a prime example of our work to harness the ingenuity of the CUNY community and to expand access and support for entrepreneurs at a time when their innovations can be vital to the pandemic recovery and long-term growth of our region.

Félix V. Matos Rodríguez is Chancellor of the City University of New York (CUNY), the largest urban public university system in the United States.


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