Two of the biggest impediments to technological innovation in the Bronx are education and infrastructure, a group of panelists and speakers said during a daylong summit held at Fordham University this week.
The speakers, part of the fourth annual Bronx Summit on Technology Innovation and Startups, all agreed that a greater focus on STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math) is a requirement for any technology growth in the borough.
“Overall, there’s a lack of people pursuing STEM-related careers, specifically in the Bronx,” said Brian Wilson of DURO UAS, a South Bronx-based company that is creating unmanned vehicles to help with environmental and infrastructure research. “There’s a lot of untapped talent in this area.”
Arthur Young Spivey, of the Design for Manufacturing Summit and the Parsons New School of Design, agreed. He also said there is a bottleneck between the conception of new technology and its widespread use.
“It really comes down to … the skill sets of people,” Spivey said.
The summit was organized by the Gabelli School of Business Center for Digital Transformation, headed by Professor RP Raghupathi, in partnership with the university’s Urban Studies Program and Urban Law Center and the Bronx Technology Innovation Coalition.
Gabelli School Dean Donna Rapaccioli, who grew up in the borough, said she hoped the audience and presenters would help to answer the question of whether the Bronx has the capacity to be New York’s next tech corridor. If the answer seems to be no, she said, Fordham is deeply invested in what would it take to change that answer to yes.
“Today, [the challenge is] to think about what it would take to bring the Bronx to the next level around technology and entrepreneurship,” she said.
In addition to the shortage of tech-skilled labor in the Bronx is a lack of high-tech infrastructure. Without high-speed, high-capacity Internet, for example, there are limited opportunities for students to practice STEM-related work on computers, panelists said.
Tom O’Connell, a former teacher and the program director for Code/Interactive, said that though education remains a problem in the Bronx, there is room for optimism.
“We have this amazing opportunity through technology … to spur [students’] interest and build some knowledge in tech to give them the skills to succeed in whatever industry that they want to, because every industry … is being transformed by technology,” O’Connell said.
Code/Interactive has worked with the Fordham Foundry on educating and training students in the Bronx.
It is partnerships such as those created at the Foundry, among higher education, entrepreneurs and government that can help lift the Bronx, some panelists said.