By the BF Staff
From the March/April 2021 Issue
Business Facilities: Why are so many breakthrough-developing companies choosing Delaware for their location and growth?
Ariel Gruswitz: Delaware offers a rich innovation economy and currently ranks 8th on Bloomberg’s State Innovation Index and 9th on the Milken Institute’s State Technology and Science Index. Not only does Delaware have the highest concentration of chemical engineering jobs in the United States, but it also boasts the fourth-highest concentration nationally of PhDs employed in science, engineering and health. Delaware has seen a 60 percent growth rate in life sciences firms in the last decade and ranks second on Amazon’s Most Digital Entrepreneurs Per Capita list. Delaware also ranks first in business legal climate in the United States and offers the second-lowest cost of doing business nationwide, according to Forbes.
BF: How is Delaware continuing to advance its focus on innovation in science and tech?
AG: Delaware is addressing the high demand for “ready-to-go” laboratory space for growing wet-lab-based—biology and chemistry—companies with a pilot grant program supported primarily by $3 million earmarked from the Delaware Strategic Fund. Delaware Governor John Carney has proposed committing additional state funds starting in Fiscal Year 2022 to support expanding lab space. The current grant program allows growing, early-stage and small-to-medium-sized companies to apply for funds to offset the cost of lab space fit-out. It also allows landlord developers to apply for a “lease guarantee” to help mitigate some of the potential losses from leasing to early-stage science companies that may be higher-risk tenants.
BF: Not all innovation involves labs. How is Delaware addressing the innovation needs of other industry sectors?
AG: About 40 percent of Delaware’s pipeline of business expansion or recruitment prospect projects are in the science and technology sector, and the new Delaware Science & Tech Advisors was created to facilitate business innovation in Delaware. This group consists of more than two-dozen representatives from Delaware’s top technology companies, industry organizations, institutions of higher education and state government.
BF: What does the Delaware Science & Tech Advisors aim to do?
AG: The vision is for Delaware to be known as an innovation hub that grows scalable companies and competes successfully for business expansion and attraction projects. The Advisors will catalyze and help drive strategy to support the innovation economy in the state and region. The initiative aims to go beyond Delaware’s already outstanding responsiveness to sector needs by taking a proactive approach to strategic direction and oversight for economic development. Advisors members are very purposefully selected leaders who represent a cross-section of industries, technologies and institutions and who will be directly affected by the achievement of the group’s goals. The Advisors initiative is strongly supported by Delaware’s governor and lieutenant governor as well.
BF: Equity is a key aspect of innovation in any industry. How is Delaware advancing equity?
AG: One of the key initiatives this year for Delaware Prosperity Partnership (DPP) has been redirecting our Startup302 early-stage funding competition to focus on underserved science and tech startups. We know innovation thrives best in diverse environments, and so this year our Startup302 competition was specific in inviting those whose ventures typically receive a smaller portion of private funding than their demographic percentage of the overall United States population would suggest. We also were very fortunate to receive a grant from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation to develop a plan for sustaining a more diverse tech talent pipeline that spans and supports all industry sectors statewide. The plan includes expanding the base of Delawareans who could gain skills and fill in-demand information technology positions. It builds on several local community-based programs that already have contributed to a more diverse IT workforce on a smaller scale and recommends expansion of public policies to accelerate training innovations and support private-sector talent development. Delaware’s science and tech capabilities are getting more and more attention from business location decision makers and venture capitalists because of this and the other initiatives I’ve mentioned.
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