In a move aimed at fostering innovation and economic development, the Biden-Harris administration with the US Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Tech Hubs program today unveiled the designation of 31 Tech Hubs across the US.
Included in that news: The Baltimore-Columbia-Towson metropolitan statistical area (MSA) is now officially recognized as a 2023 Tech Hubs designee.
EDA Tech Hubs is a program funded by the CHIPS and Science Act with the goal of empowering regions that may not have the same financial resources or renown as places like Silicon Valley. The hope is that creating federal designations for what might be lesser-known regions could enable the areas to compete on a global scale when it comes to its tech ecosystems. Nearly 400 applications came from across the US, including Baltimore, DC, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Delaware, representing consortia made up of partners from various industries and sectors from academia to local government to apply for Phase 1 and potentially be eligible for millions in funding in Phase 2, which kicks off this fall.
“Winning an application is not the end of the process; it’s the beginning,” explained Bruce Katz, a seasoned urban policy expert and the director of Drexel University’s Nowak Metro Finance Lab, in a prior interview with Technical.ly. “It’s part of a broader strategy for global competitiveness.”
Baltimore’s core technology area for the EDA application reflected a commitment to merging the realms of AI and biotechnology. A strategy that a 38-strong-consortium hopes will leverage the region’s unique strengths and position Baltimore at the forefront of innovation. The consortium includes organizations ranging from UpSurge Baltimore to Fearless to Conscious Venture Partners.
Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC), which spearheaded the local Tech Hubs consortium, is sending CEO Mark Anthony Thomas to introduce President Joe Biden in the official announcement for Tech Hubs at the White House on the afternoon of Oct. 23.
— Mark Anthony Thomas (@marka_thomas) October 23, 2023
Pothik Chatterjee, GBC’s chief economic officer, expressed his enthusiasm for the designation: “This is a game-changer and a historic moment for the Greater Baltimore region,” he told Technical.ly. “Being recognized as a federal tech hub is a tremendous honor, given the fierce competition with nearly 400 applicants from 48 states.”
Now that Phase 1 has been secured, Chatterjee said the Baltimore consortium is seeking a portion of the $10 billion allocated for Phase 2 funding. A White House press release notes that designees can apply for between $40 million and $70 million in strategy implementation grants in this next phrase; in August, the stated amount available for each designee in Phase 2 was $50 to $75 million.
Fearless Chief Impact Officer John Foster expressed his support for the consortium aiming for the full $75 million in phase two, citing a quote from a Robert Browning poem he said he would often hear from Dr. Freeman Hrabowski of UMBC: “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.”
“I think the $75 million target is the right thing, considering the assets in the region,” Foster said, “and it can be used for good.”
Foster also highlighted what excites him about the designation and what it signifies.
“It’s like a layered cake,” he said. “We have clear direction and funding, but it’s now the region’s responsibility to organize and create systems that remove biases and reduce health disparities. All these factors are truly exciting to me.”
Chatterjee is assured of Baltimore’s chances in getting Phase 2 funding.
“I believe we have a strong chance to secure the $75 million, thanks to the strength of our consortium, featuring diverse industry representation in biotechnology and AI, as well as regional representation from across the Greater Baltimore region,” he said.
The new designation offers 16 significant benefits, per the EDA, including a community of practice, which will enable each designee to engage with other designated regions across the country.
President Biden is scheduled to make the official announcement at 2:15 p.m. ET today at the White House.
“We’re [GBC] gonna be on a Zoom call with the president,” Chatterjee said. “It’s not every day, you get to be on a Zoom call with the president.”
Folks can watch that announcement live here:
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