In the News

— A few months into his tenure as chief technology officer of General Electric, Vic Abate spoke with The Daily Gazette about the direction he's taking GE Global Research in 2016.

Technically, there are thousands of directions. From the Niskayuna headquarters, Abate leads 3,000 Global Research scientists and engineers at Niskayuna and nine other research and development centers worldwide. These 3,000 contribute to and draw from the work of 40,000 engineers at GE's various component businesses. Taken as a whole, this army of minds is working on a staggering number of projects and initiatives at any given time.

If there's one unifying theme that Abate is trying to create -- a single "direction" -- it's to unify the efforts of all those people in 140 GE labs around the world to better build off each other and accelerate development of the company and its businesses.

Seventh-grade engineer Trever Rittberger from Yukon and his teammate Levi Davis set a device of their own design on a table Tuesday at Science Museum Oklahoma and began pumping air through a clear plastic tube.

Composed of cardboard, tubing, syringes, and filters made of sponges, coffee filters and cheese cloth, the Yukon middle school students were attempting to extract pure oil from a mixture of coffee and vegetable oil.

Rittberger and Davis were two of almost 900 middle school and high school students from across Oklahoma competing in a statewide Engineering Fair, sponsored by the GE Foundation, the philanthropic arm of General Electric.

The Engineering Fair is part of a $400,000 STEM initiative launched by the GE Foundation in partnership with the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST). The initiative was created to inspire greater interest from high school students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

GE’s technology centre in Bangalore is a vital cog in driving the digital transformation the firm is aiming at.


Last week, I visited General Electric Company's (NYSE:GE) global research headquarters in Niskayuna, N.Y., located just outside Schenectady, where GE's original research center was founded in 1900 in a barn.

Since those humble beginnings, the Niskayuna site has replaced the Schenectady site and remains home to some of GE's brightest minds working on developing next-generation industrial technology and providing solutions to technical challenges currently facing the company's seven industrial segments.

During the visit, I toured the campus, met with various engineers and scientists, and got a sense of how research and development is conducted at the industrial giant. Here's what I learned from the experience.

This time around, Utica got the semiconductor riches that the Capital Region has enjoyed now for years.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that the Austrian analog chip manufacturer AMS AG will build a $2 billion factory in the town of Marcy outside Utica on a site owned by SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany.

New York state will contribute $200 million toward construction of the 360,000-square-foot facility, which will initially employ 700. It will be located across the street from SUNY Poly's Utica campus on the 450-acre Marcy Nanocenter.

Cuomo also said General Electric Co. will put a new $200 million research lab in the nearly completed 253,000-square-foot Quad-C building at SUNY Poly's Utica campus.

ALBANY — General Electric, once one of the biggest employers in Utica, one of New York’s hardest-luck towns, is coming back.

Dolloping out another economic perk to a long-maligned upstate locale, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Thursday that G.E. would return to Utica for a high-tech project in a city where it once made low-tech radios.

The announcement of G.E.’s plans to package silicon carbide power blocks at the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute in Utica was just part of what the governor himself packaged as a “transformative moment” for the entire Mohawk Valley, west of the state capital. That moment included the unveiling of a promise of a more than $2 billion investment by an Austrian company, AMS, which manufactures sensors. The company pledged to generate more than 1,000 jobs at a new “wafer fabrication facility” it plans to build in the area.

Can light create jobs?

SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany was awarded $110 million from the Department of Defense last week to assemble a $610 million federal photonics manufacturing institute.

And while the headquarters of the 124-member research consortium will be in Rochester, the Capital Region is expected to benefit as well.

That's because a significant amount of the research activities for the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics will be done at SUNY Poly's Albany campus, as well as in other labs such as at General Electric Co.'s Global Research Center in Niskayuna.

The numbers can be overwhelming. Hundreds of billions of sensors, potentially connecting tens of billions of devices, with software to control and manage it all.

But the rewards of connecting and integrating complex machinery and devices can be great.

What does it cost to build a research center from scratch these days? Gerry Rubin, who runs the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Research Campus in Virginia, estimated that his organization will spend a few billion dollars before it's clear if HHMI's research will work out. Ken Herd, who helped set up GE's new research center in Rio de Janeiro, said the building alone carried a $150 million bill.

But a steep pricetag is merely the start. While securing funds is a massive initial barrier for any new facility, a modern world-class lab also needs the right combination of appeal for researchers, planning, and flexibility for when said planning doesn't work out. And on top of that, would-be lab builders better start out with a lot of institutional support.

Don a pair of special glasses, and the image of a turbine part floats off a screen.

You can look around the side or under the part, or even stick your head inside to look around.

But don't worry about bumping it. It's virtual.

At General Electric's Global Research Center, scientists and engineers have embarked on a move to digitize just about everything, in an effort that can optimize production, validate manufacturing processes, and feed data back through to designers, all while boosting efficiency and cutting costs.

Danielle Merfeld oversees more than 500 employees around the world as the director for power electronics at GE Global Research in Niskayuna, New York.

Merfeld, 42, has worked in various roles for GE Global Research and GE Power & Water since 1999. Today, she is in charge of GE Global's electrical technologies and systems team. Part of that job is directing a $500 million New York Power Electronics Manufacturing Consortium with the SUNY Polytechnic Institute.

While our recent feature looked at the various ways to make wind hardware more affordable, researchers at GE's Bangalore technology center are looking at ways to get more out of the wind hardware we already have. They're focusing on two different areas: how wind turbines interact with the grid and how they interact with each other.