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NYS Innovation Summit brings together technology, manufacturing leaders

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An annual gathering of New York technology and advanced manufacturing leaders is underway at the Turning Stone Resort in Verona. The two-day event – which like a lot of gatherings last year was held virtually – runs through Tuesday. WAMC's Jim Levulis spoke with Elena Garuc, the executive director of FuzeHub, which is the statewide center for the New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

Garuc: This is our third year doing this summit. It's an annual convening of what we like to call the innovation ecosystem. So we're bringing together individuals from all different industry sectors, from advanced manufacturing, advanced materials, clean tech, digital technology, life sciences, and bio and all of the industries that we feel are high growth areas for New York. We come together for two days. And it's a combination of an exhibit hall. We have almost 100 companies that are exhibiting, and these are innovators, a lot of startup companies, some are a little bit more advanced, but they're all doing something in those industries, in those high growth areas in New York state. So it's really exciting to celebrate. We also have four major keynotes. And we have a bunch of different breakout sessions on topics of interest to this audience, you know, everything from advancements in manufacturing, to reshoring, to the future of advanced electronics and packaging, quantum, biotechnology and personalized medicine. So again, the whole event from the exhibit hall to the topics to the speakers, it's all keyed around what we feel is really a strong way to showcase New York strength in innovation and technology. An exciting part of what we're doing this year is we've combined our commercialization competition at the summit. So we have 12 companies, startup companies, that are going to be pitching in front of judges live, to be awarded $50,000 to further develop upon their prototype. So that's kind of an exciting part of the event that we're looking forward to. And we have companies from all different industry sectors that will be there on-site pitching live for the event, in addition to all the other fun things that are going around.

Levulis: And looking at the schedule of events here, I see one of the topics to be discussed is manufacturing post COVID. Now, there's been a lot of discussion about supply chain issues, kinks in global trade throughout the course of the pandemic. What are some of the strategies to remedy those issues, to look ahead and learn from the pandemic that you expect will be touched on during the summit?

Garuc: So we have a couple of companies that are going to come and talk about some of the tools that they've used or strategies that they experienced during COVID that may have had some successes. We also have Rosemary Coats from the Reshoring Institute. She's flying in from California and her Institute really works on trying to reshore a lot of the products and parts of the supply chain that were really challenging to get during COVID. So that conversation is going to really talk about what did these companies do? I know some tried to find different materials in different ways to kind of make their product, try to find different ways and different suppliers in different locations. So it's really going to be a conversation about what the companies and the manufacturers did, because we have some industry in the room, but also someone from the Reshoring Institute to talk about strategies and how you can restructure your business this way to think about these challenges for the future.

Levulis: Now, of course, the pandemic and the measures around it, haven't just affected the products, it's affected the workforce too. And the Biden administration now is telling employers with 100 or more workers that employees must be vaccinated for COVID-19 or face weekly testing. Also, federal government workers and contractors face a vaccine mandate. Now this includes a number of defense contractors with locations in New York, how are you seeing those measures, those approaches impact the workforce and the workflow in this sector?

Garuc: To be honest, you know, I think there's a lot of workforce challenges before even the vaccine that that you see now, obviously, with a shortage and all the things that you're reading about for manufacturers and just finding skilled labor and skilled workforce. I don't have a lot of data now on how the vaccine mandates are going to affect these companies. We haven't been able to, you know, really get in yet, for the especially the defense contractors, to find out how this is going to work. We don't have a lot of workforce topics this year, we're really focused more on some of the technology areas. So I don't have a lot of data or you know, it's really hard for me to say what to expect this vaccine mandate going to do. I think if it's just in general, if you think about all the industries, I don't think it's going to be any different in manufacturing than many of the other industries and how it will affect it.

Levulis: And another topic I see on the schedule here is sustainability, specifically on our food and water systems. And just kind of want to get a sense from you as to how sustainability is being viewed in today's manufacturing sector, it's so much different than years ago, there's so much advanced technology now. How is sustainability being approached in the manufacturing sector, specifically in New York State?

Garuc: Sure. It's really just looking at how do you know, protect your products? You know, the water systems, the agriculture, looking at waste, and how do you reuse certain products? How do you recycle? You know, it's really looking at the environmental part of what manufacturers are doing to make their products. This specific one is around our food and water systems. So we have individuals from our universities, like Cornell University and Clarkson, that are going to talk about some of the technologies that have been developed to support the sustainability. But that's what you know, we are really trying to push in a lot of our centers are working with manufacturers to make sure that they think sustainability and they look at sustainable products, especially working with, you know, products that and how they affect the environment.