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CNSE nanoeconomics professor Lands Prominent Fellowship at Bureau of Economic Analysis
When used properly, historical knowledge can be leveraged to help guide the future. CNSE Assistant Professor of Nanoeconomics Dr. Unnikrishnan Pillai is using data gathered from the nanoelectronics industry to help advance the emerging solar energy sector in the United States as part of a prestigious fellowship.
Dr. Pillai came to Albany to research and teach in the pioneering nanoeconomics program at CNSE. His research is focused on the economic drivers of technological change, including how these drivers influence the rate at which technical advances are made, how government policies can influence the rate of technical change, and the economic impact of these policies.
"Working at CNSE has really driven my research to where it is today," says Dr. Pillai. "As an economist at CNSE, I am given access to invaluable resources. Conversations with scientists and engineers who are making technical advances offer valuable insights into the mechanisms at work in the process of developing these breakthroughs. These insights help us to understand what kind of economic policies or institutional structures would foster innovation and accelerate technological change."
Dr. Pillai's unique research at CNSE is what landed him a prestigious fellowship at the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) in Washington, DC, jointly sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the American Statistical Association (ASA). The program, which is designed to improve the collaboration between government and academic research, allows research fellows to come to the BEA to use BEA data and interact with staff.
While at the BEA this summer, Dr. Pillai's research will study the economic factors that allowed the U.S. to regain market share in the nanoelectronics industry during the 1990s, and seek to apply that information to the nascent solar energy sector. The nanoelectronics industry was born in the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s, but production began to shift overseas in the 1970s and 1980s, before the U.S. regained a large portion of the market share in the 1990s. Dr. Pillai's analysis targets the factors behind the shift that allowed for recovery of the U.S. nanoelectronics industry. By looking at this data, he hopes his findings can be applied to the solar energy industry, which was also born in the U.S., but has seen production begin to move overseas while the U.S. has continued to lose market share.
"Innovations created in the U.S. with the support of government funded R&D are often used by other countries and these countries become leaders in the manufacturing of these products," says Dr Pillai. "As a recipient of the ASA/NSF/BEA Fellowship, I have been given a great opportunity to work with data from the BEA and other sources to better understand the process of international diffusion of technology and manufacturing."