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State leaders admit they don’t know nano from ‘na-nu’

Wednesday, July 16, 2014
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— New York state’s top officials don’t quite know what it is, but they sure do want it.

One by one, the state’s leaders took to a podium at GE Global Research in Niskayuna to express their love for, and absolute cluelessness about, nanotechnology.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos each vied to express the importance of semiconductor research and manufacturing, while freely admitting they don’t understand it.

“When he explains to me silicon carbide and the efficiencies because of the ability of carbide to conduct electricity, I have no idea what he is talking about,” Cuomo said. “But I believe it is going to work.”

Cuomo was referring to Alain Kaloyeros, president and CEO of the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany. The nanocollege leverages a public-private model with more than $20 billion in total investments to spearhead next generation computer chip research.

Cuomo said his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, also probably didn’t know what Kaloyeros was talking about. In 1988, Cuomo recruited Kaloyeros to lead what ultimately became the nanocollege.

“But my father chose to go with Kaloyeros, and that turned out to be a bet that returned big dividends to the state of New York,” Andrew Cuomo said.

Cuomo is not the only one scratching his head. Silver and Skelos also said they don’t really know what is going on with nanotechnology in the Capital Region and other areas across upstate New York.

“Gov. Cuomo mentioned how his dad, when he was governor, was [given an explanation] by Kaloyeros about nanotechnology and all this,” Skelos said. “I still don’t understand it. I thought back then … he was referring to the Robin Williams show where they used to go ‘na-nu, na-nu.’ But now I am beginning to understand it.”

After his speech, Skelos introduced Silver, who said after decades of leading the state Assembly he also still doesn’t really understand what nanotechnology is all about.

“Nearly two decades ago, I first met Kaloyeros,” Silver said. “And yes, I didn’t understand him then and I don’t understand him today, either.”

Silver said Kaloyeros asked him to invest $5 million to build a clean room — where computer chips are manufactured — at the University at Albany.

“I didn’t understand it exactly, but it sounded good,” Silver said. “I got the Capital District representatives together, and we decided that he was worth making this investment.”

After the politicians joked about their confusion, Mark Little, senior vice president and director of GE Global Research, walked up to the podium and reassured the crowd he knows what’s going on.

“I do understand what Alain Kaloyeros is saying, and I know what it will do,” Little said. “This will put New York in the leadership position in the work with a technology that will improve every industry. We are going to do something incredible.”

 
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