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Federal Tech Hub Designation to Bring Influx of Funds for Innovation

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Delaware’s already established reputation as a center of technology innovation received a big boost the past October. That’s when the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) Tech Hubs program, an effort by the federal government to help regions other than Silicon Valley and Boston become global competitors as the U.S. expands into high-tech manufacturing, designated the Greater Philadelphia Region Precision Medicine Tech Hub — a region that includes the First State.

This hub, led by Ben Franklin Technology Partners, is one of just 31 in the nation. It is now eligible to apply for strategy implementation funding from the CHIPS and Science Act, in amounts of $40 million to $70 million per hub.

With a focus on life sciences and a core technology area of end-to-end precision medicine, the hub centers on some of the region’s strengths, including biotechnology, medical technology, genomics, synthetic biology supported by artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics, to develop new ways to treat and prevent disease and reduce health disparities.

“From a technical standpoint, the designation is an endorsement of our region’s ability to leverage a particular technology field to become a national and global leader, in particular when it comes to precision medicine,” says Noah Olson, director of innovation at the Delaware Prosperity Partnership. “It could lead to funding to support a suite of programs to help further strengthen our region in the field.”

‘An Upswing in Intentional Partnership’

Given Delaware’s geographical proximity to the Greater Philadelphia region, the partnership between government, academic and business organizations has been going on for some time, he says. “Over the past several years, with an influx of new, federal-government-backed programs to support innovation, there has been an upswing in intentional partnership in the region, which can be seen in this designation, as well as other recognitions, like the naming of a regional hydrogen hub, the Mid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub (MACH2), from the Department of Energy.” (See page XX for more on MACH2.)

Being a part of the precision medicine regional hub “means that Delaware’s innovators, and the organizations that support them, will receive recognition on a national scale. Benefits can include exposure to additional private streams of funding, or new pools of customers or patients on the company side, and additional incoming resources to support regional innovation, in Delaware and throughout the Greater Philadelphia region,” Olson says.

The Tech Council of Delaware, though not part of the Greater Philadelphia Region Precision Medicine Tech Hub application, said it was “thrilled” that Delaware has been included in the hub. The organization is a member of the Technology Councils of North America (TECNA), which represent nearly 70 tech councils and associations in the U.S. and Canada, says Zakiyyah Ali, its executive director. “As an active member of TECNA, the Tech Council of Delaware promotes the great work happening in the First State to leaders across the county and north of the border. This allows us to increase the state’s perception as a tech hub, which in turn supports the attraction of new companies and tech professionals to Delaware.”

Building Upon Innovative Strengths

Technical.ly, a renowned tech-specific media outlet, includes Delaware in the tech markets it covers, “which lends credence that the state is leading in technology, innovation, tech workforce development and startups and entrepreneurism,” she adds. Technical.ly’s 2023 State of the Delaware Tech Economy gave the First State a report card, “where we fared really well in areas such as ease of business, cost of living, tech training programs and advanced research.”

She says Delaware is positioned to “build upon its innovative strengths and address areas requiring improvement,” which she says include building the state’s brand as a tech hub that is attractive to companies and tech professionals, providing access to capital and services for businesses and startups, and ensuring there is a community for technologists to network and collaborate.

The latter is no small thing. “The Tech Council of Delaware hosts a series of happy hour and networking events titled Tech Thursdays,” she says. “With so much happening in Delaware’s tech space, it is important that we align our efforts and collaborate to tell a single story.”

Ali notes there is also considerable excitement around the new Delaware Broadband Office and its efforts “to ensure all residents and businesses have access to reliable, high-speed internet service and that residents have the digital skills to fully participate in society and attain quality employment. As a workforce intermediary, with over 30 corporate, education and training, and community members, we are uniquely positioned to leverage our sectoral partnership, First State Tech Partnership, to ensure the greater Philadelphia region is known for not just having a strong life sciences production capacity, but for also having a strong, diverse and skilled tech workforce.”

By David Levine

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