Innovation and Technology Thrives in Western New York
By Region 2 Advocate Teresa Coaxum
As Region II Advocate, I provide a voice for small business in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. I recently had the pleasure of meeting with business stakeholders in Western New York and found that great things are happening in that region.
When you think of innovation and technology you may think of the West Coast and a bunch of guys starting a company leading to the next Apple or Google. But I encourage you to look at the technological and innovative companies that are at work in Western New York, where small companies are changing the game in bioscience and engineering.
I enjoyed learning more about these companies when I was in Buffalo to participate in Mayor Byron Brown’s forum on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. I was there with Advocacy Economist Victoria Williams to discuss a recent report contracted by Advocacy that provides some insights into how to make sure women’s potential role in small business formation is not blocked from the start in STEM fields.
The report, “Understanding the Gender Gap in STEM Fields Entrepreneurship,” shows that more needs to be done to encourage women to get an education in entrepreneurial fields like bioengineering, mechanical engineering, and materials science.
While women are playing a much larger role in small business innovation in today’s high-tech businesses than they did a generation ago, we still have a long way to go. Keeping opportunities open for women and girls at all stages of their education is an important way to expand our overall economic growth. The opportunity to bridge the gender gap in fields related to STEM is particularly strong in Buffalo and Western New York where much progress is taking place in innovation and technology.
As we toured Buffalo, we visited the University of Buffalo (UB) Technology Incubator at Baird Research Park, where nearly 30 companies are developing new technologies and new businesses, from an innovative signage company to a company specializing in cancer-based diagnostics. UB has one of the country’s only shake-rooms, where houses are constructed and destroyed. This has allowed engineers at UB to gather realistic data around advanced technology to test how very large structures behave during an earthquake. Local companies gain because they can use the technology to better construct and repair these structures.
Our visit to Western New York shows that technology is thriving in this corner of the country and that it’s an ideal place for women to participate in STEM fields. It was very encouraging that Buffalo’s mayor is focusing on STEM education in the region which will offer many opportunities for women to secure professions in high-tech businesses. Advocacy will continue looking into issues concerning women and STEM and sharing this information with local, state and national leaders so they can implement policy that will make a difference.