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[caption id="attachment_229077" align="alignright" width="546"] The fellows at the Delaware Data Innovation Lab meet for a weekly meeting at their new STAR Campus space. | PHOTO COURTESY OF RYAN HARRINGTON/DDIL[/caption]
NEWARK – Just over a year after merging with the workforce development nonprofit Tech Impact, the Delaware Data Innovation Lab (DDIL) has a new permanent home at the recently opened FinTech Innovation Hub on the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus.Originally launched by CompassRed founder Patrick Callahan, the DDIL was akin to the MIT Media Lab, a research laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where they could make “a lasting impact and apply innovative thinking to real world problems where failure is embraced along with success.”To date, the lab has already worked on projects with the Delaware State Housing Authority on mortgage assistance, the Delaware Health Information Network (DHIN) on building out a community well-being index, and the state Department of Education on early childhood initiatives.Started with the support of $2 million from New Castle County’s federal CARES Act funds, the DDIL merged in October 2021 with Tech Impact, the national IT workforce training and nonprofit support organization, to lessen its need to consistently raise funds. Last year, it also secured an additional $3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds via the county to extend its financial runway while completing significant work around the state.The latest move marks the start of a new chapter for the DDIL though as it pursues self-sufficiency without relying on government grants, said Patrick Callihan, CEO of Tech Impact. It will look to secure some charitable donations but also develop an earned revenue stream through contracting on projects with other nonprofits, government agencies and more.It’s already completed one such project for the Wilmington-based WRK Group, which manages the REACH Riverside revitalization initiative underway in the eastside of the city. The DDIL developed and launched the organization’s first interactive social impact reporting dashboard that mines and analyzes data to assist in targeting interventions or services, said Héctor Maldonado-Reis, director of research development and analytics at the DDIL.“Because it's pretty flexible, we can take something like that [dashboard] and fit it to the needs of almost any nonprofit because the framework is built,” Callihan told Delaware Business Times, noting that nonprofits are increasingly being required to make data-informed investments by their funders. “The idea is that over the three-year period that we'll actually start to hire more and more people so that by year three, when the money runs out, we actually have a whole team operating in there.”In conjunction with opening the new STAR Campus space this month, the DDIL has introduced a new cohort of eight fellows: Tameca Beckett, Kaitlin Canalichio, Jose Dominguez, Maylene Ferrin, Yüksel Karahan, Yupeng Lei, Evan Miller, and Nile Miller. Once their yearlong fellowships are completed, the lab aims to place the researchers with local companies.
[caption id="attachment_219370" align="alignleft" width="300"] The Delaware Data Innovation Lab recently opened at the FinTech Innovation Hub at the University of Delaware's STAR Campus. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
With those researchers in mind, the move from the recently renovated CSC Station office building in Wilmington to the STAR Campus space in Newark was ideal for the future growth of the DDIL too, Callihan said.“It's very conveniently located because all of the employees are Delaware-based, and many of them are affiliated with the University of Delaware,” he noted.The lab signed a three-year lease with extension options, putting it into a building that will also host a fintech incubator, the senior living network manager Kendal Corp., the Delaware BioScience Association, and more.With the support of Tech Impact, which has a national reach and network for much of its programming, Callihan said the goal would be to grow the DDIL to eventually serve out-of-state clients as well. They have developed a three-year strategic plan that would see them begin to market their technology and capabilities at conferences and speaking engagements toward the end of that period.“For us, going national is not anything unusual. It's just part of the normal business cycle,” he added.The DDIL will host a public open house at its new FinTech Innovation Hub space from 5 to 7 p.m. Jan. 23, where attendees can meet the fellows and get a look at their work.