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DESCA: A Major Catalyst in the Innovation Ecosystem

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DESCA was formed in 2010 to enable Delaware to become a globally recognized center of excellence in the chemical sciences by building upon the state’s strong existing foundation of chemistry and materials science within the region. Over the years, DESCA executed and expanded on its strategy, focusing on bringing together the stakeholders necessary to build a sustainable future that combines innovation, economic development and building a STEM talent pipeline.

Dora Cheatham, Board of Directors  l PHOTO BY MOONLOOP PHOTOGRAPHY

·    A Sustainable Future for Industry: By convening industry leaders, DESCA drives adoption of emerging trends and technologies that will be the key drivers of sustainability for the future. Most recently, based on input from industry partners, DESCA brought together key stakeholders from business, academia and government to discuss clean energy and specifically the viability of hydrogen production, distribution and consumption within the region. This resulted in the submission of an application to the Department of Energy for a Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub in partnership with Southeast Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, leading to an award of up to $750 million for the region. These funds are being matched by over $3 billion in corporate investment and will create over 20,000 jobs in a new, clean energy economy.

·    A Sustainable Future for Innovation:  Since 2010, DESCA has engaged with over 45 startups, enabling them to refine their technology focus, access mentors, develop advisory boards and/or present at DESCA’s Annual Investor Forum. To date, the companies selected by DESCA to pitch at its six investor forums have collectively raised more than $100 million in venture capital and secured development relationships or licensing deals with companies such as Shell, GE, Cargill and AkzoNobel, or undergone profitable acquisition. In 2023, DESCA partnered with the University of Delaware and InsiteHub to receive an award in excess of $3 million to develop an online educational platform aimed at helping scientists and biomedical researchers commercialize innovations through entrepreneurial skills, resources and connections.

·    A Sustainable Future for Talent: Since 2021, DESCA has engaged over 2,000 individuals through its programs geared to university students and entrepreneurs. The Catalyzing Change: STEM Talent Conference, in partnership with FAME, Inc., brings together industry, educators and students ranging from middle/high school through to post-graduate level to help students better understand and connect with STEM opportunities and resources, and discuss current and future talent skills and needs. With a focus on building a diverse and equitable pipeline, the event has attracted attendees from 30 middle/high schools and 18 universities. In addition, DESCA has developed its monthly “Ready to Launch” program that spotlights regional STEM companies at the University of Delaware and Delaware State University, a nationally ranked HBCU.

“The innovation landscape is changing in our region, and our goal is to convene and connect the various stakeholders — the talent, the startups, the strategics — at the right time to accelerate innovation and economic development.”

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