In its quest to build a competitive tech sector, New York City is looking for ways that it can leverage the rich fabric of industries that live within its economy. The forthcoming Cornell Tech Campus on Roosevelt Island is one of the biggest attempts to corral the city's top talent into a single playpen with the hope of spurring innovative technologies.
Now that playpen has its first confirmed corporate resident, the tech-savvy investment firm Two Sigma. The company will take over a 9,200-square-foot space inside the campus's Bridge building, a place intended to bring together students, startups, and established tech companies. The allure of the new campus, and this multipurpose building, is that it could encourage the collective innovation of New York's diverse economic sectors by putting a bunch of talented people in one place.
It's an idea reminiscent of Bell Labs, the famed facilities known for sparking innovation in various fields of research. Inside the Bridge building, Two Sigma will have easy access to Cornell's researchers, as well as other yet-to-be determined tenants. It plans on using the space to host brainstorming sessions and foster new initiatives.
"We’re calling our space there the 'Collision Lab'," says Alfred Spector, chief technology officer at Two Sigma. "What we want to do is essentially see what new elementary particles are created when we take our experts, our PhDs, and computer scientists and experts in data and in particular financial systems, and have them collide with all of the creativity that’s going to be on this Cornell campus." He also says the Collision Lab will serve as a nest for incubating some of its early-stage investments.
In a vast expanse of venture funds looking to appeal to enterprising startups, setting up shop at Cornell's tech campus could offer a prime advantage. Not only would a company have access to Two Sigma's network, they'd have the benefit of being able to collaborate with other Bridge tenants and harvest Cornell's budding tech talent.
Spector also sees Cornell's talent pipeline as an asset, not only for its startups, but for Two Sigma itself. Being adjacent to Cornell, says Spector, will give it direct access to both potential new hires and new investment opportunities.
This is not Two Sigma's first collaboration with Cornell. In November, the company launched a competitive coding game called Halite with the university. Players create artificially intelligent bots that challenge each other for control of a virtual grid, according to a release. The game will launch as a three-month-long competition, no doubt another way of seeking out machine learning candidates.
Cornell's tech campus is slated to open this fall.