Civic News

Howard County Innovation Center to centralize business-building resources, Viking Lab

The Columbia Gateway Drive space is set to open in spring 2018. A MITRE Corporation research center will be housed there alongside businesses and resources.

County Executive Allan Kittleman breaks down the wall at Howard County Innovation Center.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Howard County is planning to open a new space in Columbia in spring 2019 that will serve as a resource center for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Government and economic development officials kicked off construction at The Howard County Innovation Center on Wednesday with a ceremonial wall breaking.

Located in a County-owned building on Columbia Gateway Drive, the 50,000 sq. ft. space will occupy three floors of the building. The space formerly housed county social services agencies, which have relocated to a centralized campus of their own.
The space will serve as a “nexus” of resources, according to Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA) CEO Lawrence Twele. The goal is to help startups and entrepreneurs who are just starting out, as well as more established companies. Along with room for companies and coworking space, existing resources at the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship are shifting to the space, along with the Howard Tech Council. It doubles square footage current available at MCE’s space, Twele said. The Small Business Development Center, Procurement Technical Assistance Program and HCEDA will also be in the building. Howard Community College is located on the first floor, opening up partnership opportunities.
When it comes to creating new technology, a pair of organizations are also setting up shop to help fuel activity.
For one, The Viking Lab will be on the premises. During the event on Wednesday, Twele said the County signed an agreement with R&D nonprofit The MITRE Corporation to open the facility in 1,000 sq. ft. of the space. It will be operated by Trimia, a Howard County company. The center will focus on creating solutions to challenges in the area of critical infrastructure, and hopes to transfer IP that is developed for the government to local companies, according to officials.
“This is the first lab of its kind in the country,” Twele said.
Over the summer, the U.S. arm of German research organization Fraunhofer also said it would open a site known as the Center for Experimental Software Engineering. Officials said it will help provide advanced tools to businesses.
“As much as we’re celebrating the building and the construction, it’s really the community that will make it work,” said Twele.
The Center is part of the County’s plan to create an innovation district in the Columbia Gateway Drive area, serving to cluster entrepreneurs. The area is also home startup-minded firms like MasterPeace Solutions and TEDCO, as well as other tech firms. While such plans are often more associated with urban areas, officials have said the central location between Baltimore and D.C. and existing activity can help draw in more firms.
“The opening of this Innovation Center is our latest commitment to attracting high-tech and innovative businesses to Howard County,” said Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman said in a prepared statement. “This facility will help growing businesses develop as well as allow us to take the next steps in developing the Gateway Innovation District, the county’s next great economic center.”


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