Jessica Crawford

The Bio/Med Breakthroughs: Advancing New York’s Innovation Economy industry report by MedTech, the trade association for bioscience and medical technology (Bio/Med) companies in New York, which was launched at MEDTECH 2014, reveals a number of positives and many advantages to doing business in the state.

The data encompassed in the report comes from many sources, including in-depth quantitative and qualitative research and analysis. Life science market research specialists KJT Group of Honeoye Falls, New York, surveyed and conducted interviews with Bio/Med executives regarding the challenges and opportunities they saw for the industry, with a specific eye on workforce development in New York.

The economic development consulting organization Battelle’s Technology Partnership Practice provided employment and trend data and academic and industry best practices to MedTech’s industry report.

Both analyses included in MedTech’s report provide a snapshot of Bio/Med in New York (upstate in particular), addressing the industry in general, workforce/talent development and economic impact. It shows a developing ecosystem on par with some of the country’s hottest Bio/Med locales.

Upstate New York: Leading and Growing
A medical device specialty and emerging research, testing and medical lab niches lead the way in Upstate New York. The region beats the national average in terms of economic growth in several subsectors.

If the upstate region of New York were its own state, it would rank 18th in the nation in terms of Bio/Med employment – about 28,500 direct jobs that support about 77,000 total jobs in the regions north and west of the New York City metropolitan area.

Medical device and equipment production is 26 percent more concentrated in Upstate New York when compared to the national average. The growing research, testing and medical lab concentration tops the national average by 12 percent, according to the analysis by Battelle’s Technology Partnership Practice.

Larger New York companies like Welch Allyn, Corning Life Sciences, Baxter, AngioDynamics and Thermo Fisher produce and innovate medical devices used to monitor and treat patients in hospitals and clinics across the country and around the world. Smaller outfits and startups also help define the state’s current Bio/Med output, including stem cell research, lab technology development, medical IT and numerous other areas.

Upstate’s base of 820 biochemists and biophysicists make up a specialized concentration in the region, which is about 42 percent above the national average. Biochemists’ work on gene therapies, proteins or cell parts as well as lab equipment design boost the biopharmaceutical research base in New York State.

Ophthalmic lab technicians offer another upstate specialty that fuels eyeglass and contact lens innovation. The concentration of positions in this subsector is nearly 50 percent greater than the national average.

Other key occupations include the highly utilized pool of engineers in medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturing. More than 5,000 industrial engineers design, develop, test and evaluate integrated manufacturing systems and processes that cover human work factors, quality control, logistics, material flow and other areas. In addition, more than 5,650 mechanical engineers support the upstate medical device specialty.

Chemists support pharmaceutical manufacturers in Upstate New York with a concentration 35 percent higher than the national average. This group includes a large range of chem-based occupations from chemists and chemical technicians at the higher skill levels to chemical plant, system and equipment operators at the more middle skill levels.

Another critical concentration makes New York a competitive state on the national Bio/Med scene. Both the medical device and pharmaceutical industries draw from a strong base of assembly, fabrication and packaging employees as well as machinists. This trade specialization helps drive the emerging ecosystem in New York.

CNC machine operators are highly specialized in Upstate New York, which boasts a 35 percent greater concentration than the national average for that occupation. Mixing and blending machinists supporting pharmaceutical manufacturing have a concentration that is a remarkable 115 percent above the national average.

The highly regulated nature of Bio/Med product development and manufacturing producing demand for quality control, assurance and compliance knowledge and skills. These quality control and regulatory jobs have a high concentration in Upstate New York, a clear signal of bioscience industry demand and a strong advanced manufacturing industry base, according to the Battelle study.

The Academic Pipeline
The highly skilled and educated students coming out of Upstate New York universities help fuel the economic success. About 60 percent of more than two dozen Bio/Med leaders surveyed by KJT Group identified workforce and talent development as a top strength.

The wealth of institutions producing first-class research and highly trained employees explains why two-thirds of respondents’ Bio/Med talent comes from within New York State.

Many companies partner with key institutions like Cornell University, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Rochester and SUNY Buffalo to get students trained in needed areas.

“New York’s talented workforce and world-class higher education and research institutions are contributing to the growth of the bioscience industry in New York State, particularly in Upstate New York,” said Kenneth Adams, president, CEO and commissioner of Empire State Development. “Under Gov. Cuomo’s leadership, New York is also supporting innovation and commercialization in this high-growth industry through its groundbreaking new programs, such as START-UP NY and Innovation Hot Spots, which will help continue to advance New York's economy.”

Bio/Med CEOs, COOs, CSOs, presidents, vice presidents and general managers surveyed in the KJT Group study identified some challenges as well.

While the academic pipeline within the state is strong on the whole, recruiting mid-career and executive talent presents an obstacle, according to about 40 percent of answers.

“Innovation and technology breakthroughs require a highly skilled workforce that has depth of education and experience,” said Jessica Crawford, president of MedTech. “MedTech’s purpose is to bolster the energy and innovation that New York’s Bio/Med firms bring to the world every single day. With the support of a new member working group focused on workforce development, MedTech stands ready to address any challenges potentially impeding the growth of our industry.”

The study indicates the senior-level shortage could be alleviated by taking advantage of two major strengths: the quality of life and lower cost of living in New York State.