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Graduate student Erica Green works in one of NIIMBL’s new labs to continue critical research during COVID-19 restrictions. | PHOTO COURTESY OF UD

When Alok Patel looks at the progress being made in the technology and science fields in Delaware, he sees tremendous potential. Thanks to growing federal investment and a critical mass of talent in the state, there is great opportunity for companies to develop new products and increase their revenues.

Patel is the assistant director of business development and strategic initiatives for the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL), which is one of 16 institutes throughout the nation charged with helping various industries thrive. NIIMBL’s presence in Newark gives the state an advantage in the biotechnology industry.

“Delaware is strategically well positioned to capitalize in this particular area,” Patel says. “Our mission is to move forward the technology sector. Big pharmaceutical companies and small startups are coming to NIIMBL to have conversations and to learn how they can shorten the timelines for developing new medicines.”

Patel points to a series of initiatives that have helped accelerate an already vibrant technical climate in the state. One is the creation of NIIMBL. Another is the CHIPS and Science Act, passed last August, which increased federal funding in the area of supply chain technology. And the Inflation Reduction Act provided monies for climate and clean energy manufacturing. The goal of all three was to help the U.S. become more competitive in all science and tech fields.

The impact for Delaware has been felt already. The investments have provided capital for companies large and small, but they have also contributed to a more vibrant community. Greg Plum, chairman of the Technology Forum of Delaware, points to progress in fintech and biotech, thanks to advanced data techniques. He mentions CompassRed, a Wilmington-based firm that can identify patterns in large data samples and develop predictive models.

At the University of Delaware, the AI Center for Excellence provides support for multidisciplinary research on and off campus to encourage “impactful AI projects.” Startups like Prelude Therapeutics, which develops therapies to fight cancer, are growing as well. And none of this is occurring in a vacuum. As the various companies, centers and researchers work on their own projects, they are also interested in collaborating to help advance the sector while boosting Delaware’s status throughout the country.

“It’s an unselfish environment,” Plum says. “Leaders are coming together in groups like the Delaware Prosperity Partnership to create a framework to share ideas in an open forum. People want to help their neighbors. They don’t keep things close to the vest.”

The investment and subsequent growth have led to a spike in available jobs at all levels. There are opportunities for people with four- and two-year degrees, as well as those from high school technical programs and specialized training institutes, like Zip Code Wilmington, which provides coding training. Companies are eager to find new talent and develop it. An example of the growth is at UD’s STAR Campus, which Plum reports now employs more people across its many tenants than the space did when it was a Chrysler plant. It’s indicative of the growth throughout the state.

“I can see us being a destination hub for innovation for the entire industry,” Patel says.

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