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Technology door to Japan opens at SUNY Fredonia Business Incubator
Friday, February 05, 2010

Japanese visit Tech Incubator
SUNY Fredonia officials and community leaders recently gathered with guests from Japan at the new Business Technology Incubator in downtown Dunkirk to mark the start of a new technology exchange.

From Left to Right are: Dr. Hiroko Sato, technology-transfer specialist, KUTLO-Nihonkai Innovation Tech-Transfer; Amy Cuhel-Schuckers, Office of Sponsored Programs, SUNY Fredonia; Jane Russo, M&T Bank; Robert Fritzinger, incubator director; Dr. Yoji Yuki, president and CEO, Niigata Technology Licensing Organization; Bill Daly, director, Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency; and Dr. Seiya Sato, senior vice president, KUTLO-Nihonkai Innovation Tech-Transfer.

The newly opened SUNY Fredonia Technology Incubator in downtown Dunkirk is poised to serve as a gateway for technology exchanges between Japan and the entire SUNY system with the arrival of Dr. Hiroko Sato, a technology transfer specialist, to begin a four-month training residency. 

As a representative of a consortium that works on behalf of 10 technology-focused Japanese universities and two technology licensing centers, Dr. Sato brings an international dimension to the incubator that can facilitate a network between start-up technology businesses here and universities in Japan. 

“Dr. Sato will learn about our systems and research opportunities while becoming familiar with our ways of incubating new clients,” said Dr. Kevin Kearns, associate vice president for Graduate Studies and Research at SUNY Fredonia. He indicated that Dr. Sato, who has a doctorate in Economics in addition to expertise in technology transfer matters, will bring a higher level of sophistication in international licensing arrangements and patents to the incubator. 

Having a unique Japanese connection in place, with the resulting exchange of information between two countries and two cultures, is viewed as both a triumph for the state-of-the-art incubator as well as a catalyst to fuel the growth of start-up businesses that create new jobs in this area. 

“If you can imagine this beautiful facility essentially being the door to Japan, it’s not hard to envision a lot of exciting things happening in the neighborhood in the next couple years,” said Incubator Director Robert Fritzinger. “I’m not sure that I could imagine a more important initiative than putting this relationship in place right now. It’s a real coup for the incubator, the university and the region.” 

Assigning Dr. Sato, along with future trainees with these skills that are likely to follow, to the incubator is expected to enhance SUNY Fredonia’s role as an economic engine in the region by advancing innovations developed in faculty research that could ultimately lead to new businesses. 

The launch of Dr. Sato’s four-month residency was commemorated last week by a visit to the incubator and SUNY Fredonia campus by Yoji Yuki, president and CEO of Niiagata Technology Licensing Organization and a senior fellow at Niigata University, and Dr. Seiya Sato (no relation to Dr. Hiroko Sato), senior vice president and technology specialist with KUTLO-Nihonkai Innovation Tech-Transfer (NTT), which addresses licensing technology in bio-life sciences. The visit by Mr. Yuki and Dr. Sato culminated in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between NTT and the SUNY Fredonia Incubator which articulates the objectives of the partnership. 

“This is going to be a good start for a big future,” said Mr. Yuki. “We will try to transfer technology from Japan and the U.S. and from the U.S. to Japan, ending up with new, start-up businesses here and also over there. That’s our main goal.” 

Dr. Hiroko Sato’s position is being funded by Japan’s Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry, along with university consortium members. Among the many objectives of her residency are: learning the day-to-day operation of a university-affiliated technology incubator; becoming acquainted with the role that grants and contracts play in supporting development and transfer of new technologies and supporting faculty and private-sector entrepreneurs; and learning about SUNY Research Foundation policies and procedures that govern technology transfer and intellectual property management. She will work out of an office at the incubator and also serve an internship at the university’s Office of Sponsored Programs. 

Near the end of her residency in March, Dr. Sato will develop a plan to increase technology related collaboration between, SUNY Fredonia, other SUNY campuses, Niigata University and Japanese university consortium members. Suggested strategies to increase faculty interaction, research sharing, technology transfer and patent development and licensing will also be included. 

Her mission will also focus on helping local entrepreneurs learn about Japanese ways of business. 

Dr. Sato will work with incubator clients as they develop products that can be patented or licensed, Dr. Kearns said. “It is our hope that our relationship with the Japanese consortium will open the door to international licensing and patents and open markets for our clients. Her presence is being counted on to further solidify SUNY Fredonia’s collaboration with the Japanese consortium members.” Kearns believes that faculty teaching exchanges may also develop in the future. 

Bill Daly, director of the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency, joined the informal gathering and welcomed the incubator’s contributions to the region. “We’re making plans for creative ways to bring business in, and certainly this incubator is a classic example of how we will create jobs with innovative technology in this county, which has been somewhat lacking,” he said. “That’s why the general feeling towards this institution here is very positive. We are very fortunate to have them.” 

Seven tenants currently occupy the incubator, whose 20,000 square feet of space is designed to accommodate up to 31 businesses. 

Mr. Fritzinger said SUNY Fredonia enjoys a “tremendous relationship” with Japanese universities through the efforts of SUNY Fredonia President Dennis Hefner, incubator client relations specialist Richard Goodman and other SUNY Fredonia officials. 



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