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The Statesman

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The Statesman

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    LIHTI: A Long Island Gem

    After January’s work force numbers were released, early signs of a recession were reinforced in the minds of Americans. On top of the recent swings occurring in stock markets worldwide and the fiasco in the United States’ housing market, 17,000 American jobs were lost during the month of January.

    While the Federal Reserve is attempting to combat the looming recession by lowering its benchmark federal funds rate, other institutions across the nation are doing their part to help stimulate both the local and national economies. These institutions are incubators, and on Long Island, the Long Island High Technology Incubator (LIHTI) is playing its role in boosting the local market.

    LIHTI opened in 1992 as Long Island’s first high technology business incubator. Since its debut, over 70 companies have been associated with the incubator in some way, and by the end of 2003, 44 of those companies had successfully graduated from the incubator’s program and were still in business. At that time, these 44 companies were generating more than $2.5-billion into the national economy and were employing upwards of 500 employees.

    “The incubator was created to help Long Island with the creation of enterprises utilizing new technology created here at Stony Brook or at Brookhaven National Laboratory,” said Dr. Yacov Shamash, an LIHTI Board Member as well as an associate of several of the companies that have been involved with the incubator. “It leads to the development of jobs and hopefully the creation of profitable companies on Long Island.”

    An incubator’s primary purpose is to support early businesses and to provide them with a chance to develop and grow into fully-functional entities.

    LIHTI has been housing companies for over 15 years, and since the facility opened, there has been a waiting list for companies to enter the program. Currently, the typical waiting time for a company to enter the program is anywhere from six months to a year.

    “LIHTI has always been full,” Dr. Shamash said. “There were simply more companies than we had space. That’s one of the main reasons why two additional incubators were added to the campus.”

    In addition to LIHTI, Stony Brook University also contains a Calverton Incubator and a Software Incubator. The purpose of these two facilities was to both increase the amount of space available to the companies as well as to focus on developing specific types of products such as software or agricultural-based items.

    However, the road to get into and remain in the incubator is not an easy one to travel.

    Each company has to submit an application as well as a business plan to LIHTI’s Tenant Selection and Review Committee prior to entering the facility. After interviews are completed and the committee feels that the company has a clear outline, as well as a chance to be assisted by the incubator, then they are added to the waiting list.

    Finally, after their admission, companies have to submit forms and demonstrate their progress to the committee which determines if the company is fulfilling its initial goals.

    “While the entrance process and the graduation program are tough, it’s definitely beneficial for the companies,” said Mary Walton, an Administrative Assistant at LIHTI. “One of the things we try to do to make it easier on the companies is that we don’t have a set time limit for them to graduate. We don’t want to kick the companies out if they aren’t ready, so as long as they perform well they can stay for as long as they need.”

    Currently, the LIHTI building accommodates 18 companies. Some of these companies include Applied DNA Sciences, Inc., a company whose platform is to use DNA to prevent the counterfeiting of various products, and GotFrag.com, the leading online society and resource for competitive computer gaming information, features and content.

    Applied DNA, Inc., has been at the incubator since 2005 and was recently interviewed by Newsday about their current “Cotton Project” where they are using DNA sequences to verify the authenticity of various items made out of cotton.

    GotFrag.com has been cited in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other publications as the most recognized source for the analysis of games and gamers, and for the reporting of trends and content in the gaming world.

    “We’re pretty much a permanent resident here,” said Ben Liang, the Chief Technology Officer of Applied DNA, Inc. “The incubator has provided us with a lot of help. We have resources to use that allow us to gather information, and scientifically we have a great community to discuss ideas with and to help us develop new ideas.”

    There are about a dozen organizations that are a part of Stony Brook University that aid LIHTI’s companies during the development process. Two of the primary organizations that provide this assistance are the Office of Technology Transfer and Licensing and the Small Business Development Center.

    The former focuses on answering questions dealing with patents, copyrights, technology transfer and intellectual property and the latter provides business start-up and expansion help, business plan development and financial planning lessons. It is through the use of these groups that LIHTI’s companies transform from general research ideas into profitable companies.

    “LIHTI puts the companies in contact with these resources, which wouldn’t be available to them if they weren’t working with an incubator that is housed by a state university,” said Walton. “It’s the ability to offer this kind of help that makes LIHTI a successful incubator.”

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