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Senate's "innovation banks" would help commercialize research

Ryan Delaney

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, is hoping to build a better bridge between academic research and the commercial market.

Gillibrand on Wednesday stopped in Buffalo and Syracuse to continue stumping for the America Innovates Act. The bill would put $200 million into "innovation banks" that could be then given to researchers to help further develop their inventions.

Connecting research to industry can boost job growth and entrepreneurship, economists say. But often what happens on a college campus isn't advanced enough, researchers lack the knowledge to bring the innovation to the market, or the money to commercialize the product doesn't exist.

The bill Gillibrand is co-sponsoring would give money directly to the researchers.

"Venture capital firms don’t give them money, banks don’t give them money, it’s hard to get that angel investor," Gillibrand said while at the Syracuse Center of Excellence. "But if you can give the money directly to the research institution, they can then help write the business plan and get it to a place where a venture capitalists would give them money."

The bill would also develop training programs on things like patent law for graduate students and professors.

Gillibrand has been making a case for entrepreneurship and small business efforts for some time. She outlined an "entrepreneurship agenda" last April. She admitted Wednesday she's had little success in the last year and a half.

She did point to some success creating tax credits for hiring returning veterans and new bipartisan support on woman-owned business efforts. And she remained optimistic on future efforts.

"I’m hoping something like this could be something you could pass either in the lame duck or in the first three months of the next session where you’re trying to create a jobs agenda and there’s going to be good will on both sides," she said.

You can follow reporter Ryan Delaney on Twitter @RyanWRVO

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