Posted August 16th, 2010
New York City would seem a logical place to find a corporate leader, such as Richard A. Gross, on the front lines of economic innovation.
Yet Mr. Gross doesn't broker deals on Wall Street. Instead, he's a chemistry professor who can usually be found about two miles away, experimenting with plastics on the Brooklyn campus of the Polytechnic Institute of New York University. He's an expert in using microbes to produce synthetic materials in ways that avoid much of the waste and pollution associated with traditional chemical processes.
Now, encouraged by his university, he's entered the corporate world. Mr. Gross has formed a company that might soon be using his production methods to make biodegradable pesticides and grocery bags.
Business spinoffs are being pushed hard by city leaders, who have pumped $7-million over the past two years into such projects. New York University is joining the effort, opening incubator facilities that provide a home for fledgling companies, and making clear to its own faculty and students that starting new companies is an important measure of their success.