Centers of Technology: The Future Is Now

From national manufacturing innovation institutes to university-led high-tech clusters and incubators, locations far and wide are stepping up to bring tomorrow’s breakthroughs to today’s market.

By Jenny Vickers
From the September / October 2017 Issue

Predictions about the speed of technological advances usually invoke a formula known in the semiconductor industry as “Moore’s law,” first postulated in 1965 by Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel. In an era when integrated circuits held transistors connected by etchings on metal, Moore postulated that the number of transistors that could be packed into a dense integrated circuit would double every year. A decade later, as transistors were supplanted by silicon-based semiconductors, Moore revised his theorem to a doubling every two years. After microchips became the central components of an emerging digital economy, one of Moore’s successors at Intel updated the theorem and applied it to silicon wafers; Intel exec David House declared that chip performance would double every 18 months. That’s the current industry standard, a window that may continue to shrink as nanotech moves from the lab to the market.

centers of technology

In recent years, economic developers have upped their game and put the essentials in place to ensure their locations have what it takes to support rapidly emerging high-tech growth sectors, which are blossoming at a rate that would make Gordon Moore smile (think cybersecurity).

Locations are bringing higher ed resources and high-tech businesses together to plant the seeds for market-ready advanced technology at incubators and innovation institutes, and to create the STEM-savvy workforce that will fill these new jobs. Here’s a look at who’s ahead of the curve in the race for high-tech glory.


Chicago is rising up in ranks to become the next big place for technology innovation. A recent report by KPMG, a global professional services firm, puts Chicago in the top 10 in its survey of more than 800 technology industry business leaders about global technology innovation, leadership and market trends.

Thomas McDermott, Executive Director of the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII), a world-class, first-of-its-kind manufacturing hub headquartered in Chicago, pointed to Chicago’s dynamic environment, large base of major manufacturing capabilities and companies, workforce development initiatives, as well as access to talent and capital as reasons why Chicago has become a hotbed for innovation.

centers of technology
Chicago’s Digital Manufacturing and Design Institute (DMDII), has partnered with McKinsey & Co. to launch the North American Digital Capability Center, offering hands-on experience in next-gen technology. (Photo:

“Chicago has made a lot of really serious investments across a variety of sectors to become a top technology cluster,” said McDermott. “We have an abundance of resources and, in particular, access to talent which is really impactful when you think about leading commercialization in technology as well as providing a foundation for companies to be able to draw their own workforces.”

Chicago is home to over 100 innovation hubs, co-working spaces, incubators and accelerators, as well as excellent universities, including two of the world’s top business schools. Last year, Chicago’s thriving startups secured more than $1.7 billion in venture capital funding which has given rise to a multitude of promising new companies.

DMDII is one of nine institutes within the Manufacturing USA network, with six more planned by the end of 2017. Within each institute, manufacturers of all sizes partner with academia and government to share manufacturing technology and workforce challenges—and build a robust, sustainable R&D infrastructure.

DMDII is housed at UI LABS, an innovation accelerator aimed at bringing industry, universities, government and startups together, all around the convergence of big data, Internet and computing.

“We have a pretty impressive facility here on Goose Island with 100,000 square feet of industry collaboration space and a 24,000-square-foot manufacturing facility where we feature equipment from across a variety of our partners,” said McDermott. “Our factory floor is designed to allow them to test manufacturing technology and solutions and illustrate that end-to-end digitization in action.”

DMDII and its partners are currently engaged in more than 50 technical projects along with workforce development initiatives to prepare U.S. workers with the skills required for digital manufacturing jobs. DMDII currently works with over 300 academic, government and industry partners such as Dow, General Electric (GE), Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Microsoft, to name a few.

“A great example of success is our partnership with Siemens,” said McDermott. “We have their full product life cycle and tools here with kiosks and other types of interface points where people can actually touch and feel those types of solutions to understand how they work. They are able to evaluate them in an industrial facility so they can then bring them back to their own facility.”

DMDII has kicked off some major programs since the institute opened in 2015. In June 2017, McKinsey & Company and DMDII, announced the launch of the North American Digital Capability Center (DCC)—a unique digital manufacturing learning center offering company leaders and their workforces hands-on experience and workshops in next generation technology to help them advance their operations, design and productivity.

“Access to the necessary tools and training is essential for U.S. manufacturers to benefit from the rapid technological change currently underway,” said McDermott. “Housing the North American Digital Capability Center at DMDII—a neutral collaboration platform—ensures companies of all sizes can tap into the resources they need to adopt advanced manufacturing technologies and remain competitive on the global stage.”

Leaders from 50 UI LABS partner organizations participated in trainings at the center during its first month of operation. Key partners Microsoft, Tulip, OSIsoft and Scope AR contribute real-world technologies to the center’s functioning refrigerator compressor production line.

DCC’s mock production line includes the high-performing, digitally driven production equipment of the future that incorporates advanced analytics, augmented reality and digital assistance for the operators. In the coming months, it will include collaborative robots (cobots) and artificial intelligence.

“We’re focused on removing some of the roadblocks and accelerating the rate at which technology will become available to manufacturers,” said McDermott. “It’s really helping companies located in this region be so much more competitive.”

UI Labs also released a groundbreaking workforce analysis to help define the future of manufacturing in the U.S. The Digital Workforce Succession in Manufacturing, produced with Manpower Group, will help companies develop a talent pipeline for existing and future factories. This first-of-its-kind research includes in-depth profiles for 20 roles that span a range of “digital” technologies and business practices, such as virtual reality/augmented reality systems specialist.

“The new roles we have identified will help prepare American workers for the technological shift that is underway, providing attractive, well-paying jobs for the next generation of manufacturers,” said Caralynn Nowinski Collens, CEO of UI LABS. “A smart factory is going to be very dependent on this new workforce.”


mHUB is a new innovation center established to ensure Chicago and its Heartland manufacturing industry continue to accelerate, grow and thrive.

“Manufacturing has always been at the heart of Chicago’s innovation efforts,” said Haven Allen, executive director of mHUB. “The mHUB community consists of entrepreneurs, manufacturers, investors, mentors, engineers and designers, as well as education and industry partners.”

Today, the Chicago area’s manufacturing industry currently employs over 400,000 men and women. It generates over $72 billion annually, making it the fourth largest segment of the regional economy. Top sectors include computer electronics, health and medical devices, and fabricated metals and heavy machinery.

“It’s a very exciting time to see how innovation and new technologies are revitalizing the manufacturing industry,” said Allen.

mHUB is located in the River West neighborhood in the heart of Chicago’s vibrant entrepreneurial Tech Triangle, just blocks from businesses like Lightbank, Groupon and Uptake and a short distance from DMDII in Goose Island.

mHUB’s state-of-the-art 63,000-square-foot facility features 10 unique fabrication centers to make the product development cycle as efficient and seamless as possible. The center’s specialty labs include a 3D-printing lab, electronics lab, metal fabrication lab and more, and boasts more than $3 million of prototyping and manufacturing equipment. In addition, mHUB has a microfactory for onsite low-volume production runs.

More than 250 early-stage product innovators already have joined prominent global and local manufacturers as founding members of the mHUB community such as Aiwa, BluStor and Modobag.

“This diversity of backgrounds and perspectives sparks innovation and leads to opportunities for creative collision and collaboration,” said Allen.

mHUB also serves as a connection point to the larger community by partnering with established manufacturers, business accelerator programs, venture capitalists, engineering and product development consultancies, universities and providers of industry-specific business services, to provide members with access to these important services.

“mHUB’s members create breakthrough products in robotics, connected devices, sensors, energy tech, unmanned vehicles and other cutting-edge innovations,” said Allen. “By providing the right equipment and resources, mentorship and access to manufacturing industry insiders, mHUB helps early-stage innovators go from prototype to product to sustainable business, driving a greater likelihood of success.”

mHUB has received commitments of more than $8 million from its industry partners, including Marmon, Chamberlain Group, U.S. Economic Development Administration, GE Ventures and Kirkland & Ellis, to name a few.

In conjunction with mHUB’s grand opening, mHUB founding partner, GE, announced the opening of the first regional GE Fuse™ location, part of a radical, new approach to manufacturing by the industry leaders that accelerates product and technology development by combining open innovation with small batch manufacturing.


Rhode Island has set its sights on becoming a top hub of innovation. Over the past two years, the state has launched a number of new economic policies and programs focused on increasing public-private partnerships and building a high-tech workforce.

centers of technology
Real Jobs RI’s training program is helping to prepare hundreds of local workers for manufacturing jobs at Electric Boat’s 125-acre facility at Quonset Point for manufacturing, outfitting and modular construction of submarines. (Photo: The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation)

Robust state incentives and innovative programs are helping to foster growth and make the state a more attractive place for businesses to invest and expand. Companies such as GE Digital, Finlays, Richard Branson’s Virgin Pulse and Johnson & Johnson already are establishing innovation labs and offices in Rhode Island, creating hundreds of new jobs.

“What’s exciting about the trend of each of these new operations is that they all involve a high-tech and/or innovative dimension,” said Stefan Pryor, Rhode Island’s Secretary of Commerce. “Each of these companies will draw upon the outstanding research and development and tech talent being produced at our universities.”

GE’s Digital Division recently opened an office in Providence to tap into the tech talent. “We needed a place that had a strong tech talent pipeline, top-tier university partnership opportunities and great quality of life,” said Chris Drumgoole, GE’s Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. “With its unique location along the Northeast corridor, Rhode Island gives us access to many of the assets we need for success.”

GE’s Digital Division will employ hundreds of people in the coming years. The jobs will be in engineering, user-interface design and other high-paying careers in building software and making apps.

“The jobs GE is bringing to Providence are the kind of advanced industry jobs we need to build a competitive economy for the next five years as well as the next 50 years,” said Pryor. “GE will be helping to plan and craft the future of the industrial Internet in Providence, and that will have very positive effects on our own economic future.”

Finlays, a 250-year-old British tea company that acquired the iconic Rhode Island company Autocrat, is building over 93,000 square feet of research and manufacturing space at the Quonset Business Park and will create 73 new jobs by 2019.

“Finlays’ plan to create a new global center for research, development and sustainability of tea at Quonset is another indication that more and more companies want to grow and succeed here,” said Steven J. King, Managing Director of the Quonset Development Corporation.

Virgin Pulse, the leading provider of technology solutions that promote employee engagement and wellbeing, is expanding its operation in downtown Providence, creating nearly 300 new jobs.

“We considered a Boston office but ultimately chose Providence because of the access to talent and supportive business climate,” said David Osborne, President and COO of Virgin Pulse. “Our growth strategy is centered on hiring high-potential, early-in-career talent. With its hip vibe, low cost of living and high density of college students, Providence was a great fit from both a business and cultural perspective.”

According to Pryor, the state’s significant investments and incentives are helping close the deals in Rhode Island—about 18 business deals and 27 real estate deals in 18 months. “Rhode Island is very competitive,” said Pryor. “We have low costs of doing business, our corporate income tax rate is the lowest in New England, the quality of life is high and cost of living is relatively low.”

One of the challenges the state now faces is to bridge the gap between research and industry, particularly in advanced manufacturing. In May 2017, the state launched an “Innovation Campus” that aims to accelerate the commercialization of research and position Rhode Island as a center of high value employment.

Rhode Island voters approved a $20-million bond issue last fall to create an Innovation Campus affiliated with the University of Rhode Island that will help stimulate collaborative research and development projects among academic and corporate tenants, with the goals of job growth and catalytic statewide impact.

The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation is seeking academic, institutional and industry partners, with interest in opportunities to develop, program and occupy the Innovation Campus. Development partners will be required to meet or exceed the State’s investment from bond proceeds.

“We’re looking forward to helping potential applicants understand our state’s remarkable assets and, ultimately, to increasing the amount of university and medical center research that gets translated into new economic activity and jobs for Rhode Islanders,” said Pryor.

If the state can create closer ties between academia and industry, the rewards could be big. According to a Brookings Institution report, titled Rhode Island Innovates: A Competitive Strategy for the Ocean State, institutions in Rhode Island conduct more than $320 million in research each year, thanks to a cluster of universities and medical centers similar to that of Boston, albeit on a smaller scale.

Gov. Gina Raimondo has embraced this strategy, rolling out a number of other successful initiatives aimed at boosting Rhode Island’s innovation clout.

The state’s “Innovation Voucher” program gives grant money to startups for research and development and partners them with local research institutions.

The program has helped foster growth in dozens of startup companies, such as Agcore Technologies, since it was introduced in 2015. Agcore received a $50,000 Innovation Voucher to collaborate with URI to develop a commercial fish food product. Agcore also announced an expansion in Rhode Island with plans to build an additional greenhouse, hire more employees and triple their capacity in the near future.

“Having access to the Innovation Voucher program means my staff is able to work with students from the University of Rhode Island on important research and development projects that could positively impact my bottom line,” said Lawrence Dressler, President of Agcore Technologies.

Providence is in the midst of building a new Innovation and Design District, also known as I-195 land, which will be anchored by the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) and Brown University’s School of Professional Studies.

The I-195 Redevelopment District Commission voted to authorize $18.5 million in incentives from the 195 Fund to support the $158-million project which will generate more than 1,000 constructions job and more than 1,000 permanent, high-wage advanced industry jobs. According to an economic impact analysis by the firm Appleseed, this project is expected to generate an additional $100 million in revenues to the state over the next 20 years.

“This is an exciting development for Rhode Island,” said Pryor. “Decades ago jewelry manufacturing happened in a big way and now we are transforming that district into an Innovation and Design District which will help foster significant business and job growth.”

In January 2017, Gov. Raimondo launched the Rhode Island Manufacturing Initiative, a package of workforce training and economic development programs that aims to rebuild Rhode Island’s manufacturing industry for the 21st Century. The initiative includes economic development incentives and successful training programs, including the Real Jobs RI program that is helping train hundreds of Rhode Islanders for manufacturing jobs at Electric Boat, among others, and proposes investing in career and technical education by establishing a Center for Advanced Manufacturing at the state’s Davies Career and Tech High School in Lincoln.

Rhode Island also is focused on creating opportunities for Rhode Islanders to work in high-skill, high-wage jobs.

RI is one of the first states to offer two years of free tuition at its community colleges and numerous student loan assistance programs, and from the K-12 level is the first state with computer science for every kid via Computer Science for Rhode Island (CS4RI), a comprehensive statewide computer science (CS) initiative.

“It’s so important that we signal to our young people that the jobs of the future will be available to them if they dedicate themselves to their studies today,” said Pryor. “If you seek a STEM job or a design job once you graduate from college you have a real chance of having your student debt relieved.”

Gov. Raimondo also has established the Wavemaker Fellowship, a first-of-its-kind loan repayment program for graduates working in STEM fields.

The state’s Tech Hire Rhode Island program focuses on recruitment and training in order to expand the talent pipeline for in-demand jobs. It provides a platform for entry-level software developers to demonstrate their skills regardless of how they acquired their training.

“All of these programs are helping attract and retain the tech talent our new employers and existing employers need,” said Pryor. “The message is that we are building the jobs of the future and our young people will be able to access these jobs.


There’s been a surge of high-tech growth recently in Colorado. Lockheed Martin selected Colorado for a new state-of-the-art, $350 million, 266,000-square-foot facility for the manufacturing of space satellites., Inc. is on track to open its first Amazon Robotics facility in Colorado, bringing over 1,500 new jobs to the Metro Denver region.

From coast to coast, Colorado is home to major expansion deals out of Silicon Valley and New York from companies such as Marketo, Vertafore, Partners Group, Lockheed Martin, Xero, Mindset and many more.

“Colorado’s innovative mindset has allowed for businesses to compete in a global setting unlike before,” said Sam Bailey, vice president of economic development at Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation. “These partnerships have been further defined to create places like the Alliance for the Development of Additive Processing Technologies (ADAPT) Center focused on additive manufacturing and the future workforce that will be trained to support companies requiring this skill set.”

(Continued below sidebar)


Right where North and South Carolina meet sits a place that encourages big ideas and business breakthroughs. Located just 20 miles south of Charlotte, NC, Rock Hill, SC combines all of the conveniences of a big city and the advantages of doing business in a smaller community. This includes easy access to an international airport, the Port of Charleston, SC and an inland port via I-77. The largest city in York County, Rock Hill has access to more than 250,000 county residents only minutes away—not to mention over half a million more people just over the state line.

centers of technology
Family Trust Federal Credit Union was one of the first businesses to open their new headquarters at Knowledge Park. (Photo: Mike Baker)

As the city’s heart for technology and knowledge-economy businesses, Rock Hill’s Knowledge Park district spans 1.5 miles, connecting Winthrop University with the revitalized downtown and featuring lightning-fast Zipstream Gigabit Internet service, a thriving Technology Incubator and the city’s first co-working space. Knowledge Park is bursting with character, from the turn of the century textile buildings that have been carefully restored as modern office spaces to the local brewery that breathed new life into a mid-century car dealership. It also is home to the brand new University Center development, a 23-acre mix of commercial office and retail space, breweries, restaurants, student and active adult housing, hotels and an indoor athletic complex. Knowledge Park is a place for innovation to thrive, and the ideal place for creative and technology businesses to call home.

Along with its progressive new ventures, Rock Hill has been a thriving location for traditional businesses for decades. Home to multiple business and industrial parks, Rock Hill offers favorable tax laws, some of the nation’s lowest gas prices and competitive workforce training across the manufacturing and industrial sectors. Domestic and international companies have chosen Rock Hill as their ideal east coast location, including 3D Systems, Atlas Copco and Coroplast.

centers of technology
Newly developed apartments look out over Main Street in Knowledge Park. (Photo: Matthew Benham)

Rock Hill offers a lifestyle that appeals to employers, employees and families of all types. With monthly Food Truck Friday festivals, world-class sports and outdoor facilities, countless local restaurant options, an avid cycling community, and a focus on local arts and culture, there is something for everyone to enjoy in the city. Downtown Rock Hill hosts regular festivals, concerts and seasonal attractions, as well as some of the city’s best bars and restaurants. Likewise, the popular Riverwalk development, built along the Catawba River, features kayaking and paddle boarding, a wine and coffee bar, an upscale salon and premier riverfront dining, along with a world-class BMX Supercross Track, Velodrome and Criterium course, which have attracted cyclists from around the globe.

Whether you’re a startup looking for your first business home or an established company hoping to expand, Rock Hill can provide the perfect combination of community, convenience and cooperation. It’s time to forget what you thought you knew and see what Rock Hill has to offer.

In Colorado, the ADAPT center was forged by Lockheed Martin, Ball Corporation, Faustson Tool, Manufacturer’s Edge and the Colorado School of Mines through the Advanced Industries Accelerator Grant. The grant has been a major asset deployed by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade to strengthen innovation in manufacturing.

ADAPT has leveraged over $17,000,000 in federally funded programs for its members. Recent success stories include:

  • Ball Aerospace is using ADAPT’s machine learning framework for accelerated Design of Experiments to reduce the time and money needed to qualify new AM parts.
  • Reaction Systems was awarded a $750,000 two-year SBIR contract based on prototypes and data ADAPT developed with them in less than two months time.
  • Confluent Medical Technologies is leading the market in developing better materials for 3D printing of metallic biomedical implants through their partnership with ADAPT.
  • Faustson’s early adoption of an emerging selective laser melting technology is advancing rapidly thanks to ADAPT’s machine learning models.

“ADAPT is just one example of Colorado’s innovative mindset in manufacturing leveraging higher education, small businesses, large corporations and economic development,” said Bailey.

According to Bailey, companies locating in Colorado benefit from one of the nation’s most educated workforces, non-stop connectivity to domestic and international business centers, a low-tax environment and a diversified industry portfolio of high-growth start-ups and established Fortune 500 firms.

“The combination of these factors and more have resulted in one of the most competitive locations for businesses expanding and relocating from locations such as San Francisco, New York, Munich, Zurich and Tokyo, to name a few,” said Bailey.

In August 2017, preliminary construction began on Lockheed Martin’s new $350 million facility near Denver that will produce next-generation satellites.

The new Gateway Center, slated for completion in 2020, includes a state-of-the-art high bay clean room capable of simultaneously building a spectrum of satellites from micro to macro. The facility’s paperless, digitally-enabled production environment incorporates rapidly-reconfigurable production lines and advanced test capability. It includes an expansive thermal vacuum chamber to simulate the harsh environment of space, an anechoic chamber for highly perceptive testing of sensors and communications systems and an advanced test operations and analysis center. The Gateway Center will be certified to security standards required to support vital national security missions.

“This is our factory of the future: agile, efficient and packed with innovations,” said Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space Systems. “We’ll be able to build satellites that communicate with front-line troops, explore other planets and support unique missions. You could fit the Space Shuttle in the high bay with room to spare. That kind of size and versatility means we’ll be able to maximize economies of scale, and with all of our test chambers under one roof, we can streamline and speed production.”

Lockheed Martin expects the construction effort to employ a total of 1,500 contractors during the three-year construction phase. Lockheed Martin has added more than 750 jobs to its Colorado workforce since 2014, and currently has about 350 job openings in the Denver area alone.

Lockheed Martin’s Waterton Canyon campus has been a hub of space innovation since the 1950s, with more than 4,000 employees and a wide range of industry-leading design, manufacturing and test facilities on site. Spacecraft currently in production at the site include the Air Force’s GPS III satellites, NASA’s InSight Mars lander, NOAA’s GOES-R Series weather satellites and commercial communications satellites.

Amazon’s new 2.4 million square foot fulfillment and robotics center being constructed in Thornton will be the largest industrial building in Colorado once completed (scheduled for August 2018).

The facility will be different than the other fulfillment centers in Colorado because it will be an Amazon Sort Facility, meaning it will only handle product that is 18 inches and smaller and includes a large amount of robotics. The facility is anticipated to employ over 1,500 full-time people with an increase for seasonal workers around the holidays.

“We are excited to continue growing in Colorado with the new Amazon Robotics fulfillment center in Thornton,” said Akash Chauhan, Amazon’s Vice President of North American Operations. “This facility will utilize Amazon Robotics, vision systems and more than 20 years’ worth of software and mechanical innovations. We are grateful for the support we have received from state and local leaders who have helped make this project possible.”

Thornton’s business-friendly development process made this project possible in the timeframe allowed. This includes the recently implemented Economic Significance program, which allows for administrative development review for projects in the North I-25 corridor.

Colorado Springs also is the new home of a National Cybersecurity Center (NCC), a planned national resource focused on cybersecurity research and development, training and education. The Center will be housed in Colorado Springs, on UCCS property.

The city was chosen as the location because of its “impressive concentration of assets, private sector interest and connection to the University of Colorado—Colorado Springs’ cybersecurity program,” said Governor Hickenlooper, who also recognized the region’s “highly qualified workforce already plugged into this burgeoning industry.”

Colorado Springs ranks 16th nationally in the new Best Cities for Cybersecurity Professionals report, and experts say it is uniquely placed for a surge in growth and recognition as a cybersecurity hub.

Personal finance website analyzed data from 221 cities for the report, highlighting Colorado Springs’ excellent cybersecurity job prospects and desirable lifestyle—ahead of cities including San Francisco, Seattle, Santa Monica, Washington, D.C. and Denver.


High-tech growth has surged in the Washington, DC area over the last decade spurred by the presence of world-class universities and research institutions and one of the largest and strongest tech workforces in the country.

centers of technology
Amazon Web Services Inc.’s plan to open a corporate campus at One Dulles Tower in Herndon will yield the state up to 1,500 new jobs. (Photo: County EDA)

The area’s growing number of accelerators and incubators provide fertile breeding ground for startups in the city. The region’s colleges and universities provide research grants, assistance and business incubation critical to local business development, making the DC area one of the leading research centers in the U.S. According to a survey by Forbes magazine, the Washington area boasts the second-highest proportion of tech and STEM jobs, at 2.9 and 2.2 times the national average, respectively.

“Greater Washington offers a highly-skilled and diverse tech workforce, including graduates from around the world from the region’s academic institutions who are attracted to the region and its opportunities to make a difference,” said Bobbie Kilberg, President and CEO, Northern Virginia Technology Council, one of the largest technology councils in the nation. “The region’s technology workforce rivals other areas like Silicon Valley and Boston, particularly in critical industries like cybersecurity.”

The Kauffman Index of Growth Entrepreneurship ranks Virginia number one for startup growth in the country. In 2016, companies with cybersecurity offerings raised $216 million in venture capital funding across the region and $93 million in venture capital funding went to data analytics companies in the region.

“Our highly educated workforce, dynamic ecosystem of technology companies and proximity to policymakers and regulators make this region highly attractive to companies looking to start or grow a technology business or practice here,” said Kilberg.

Dubbed the “Silicon Valley of the East” by Atlantic magazine, the Dulles Technology Corridor has been a magnet for high-tech growth in the region. Located in Northern Virginia near Washington Dulles International Airport, the Dulles Tech Corridor is a burgeoning cluster of defense and technology companies with over 30,000 businesses supporting over almost 600,000 jobs.

Two of the newest additions to the Dulles Tech Corridor are Amazon Web Services, Inc. (AWS), an company, and Ellucian, a leading provider of higher education software and services.

In June 2017, AWS announced it is expanding its presence with a new East Coast corporate campus in Fairfax County in the Dulles Tech Corridor. AWS offers cloud computing services to businesses, government and educational organizations, including web hosting, application hosting, storage and backup, content delivery and scalable database solutions. Virginia successfully competed against Texas and Washington for the project, which will create up to 1,500 new jobs.

Ellucian also announced in June 2017 that it is opening its new global headquarters in Reston, located in the Dulles Tech Corridor, occupying three floors and approximately 98,000 square feet.

“Ellucian develops technology that is purpose-built for higher education, and our new home is purpose-built for that all-important mission,” said Jeff Ray, Ellucian President and CEO. “This state-of-the-art space creates an atmosphere just like that of the campuses we serve, where enabling student success is a unifying mission.”

The open-office was designed with the goal of facilitating collaborative thinking amongst employees while also providing the flexibility to accommodate meetings and personal working space. The intent was to inspire Ellucian employees to walk in the shoes of the customers they serve, as they continue to develop services and solutions that shape the digital evolution of campuses worldwide.

The region also has an impressive array of companies serving commercial and public sector customers in areas like cybersecurity, data analytics, data centers and cloud, and health technology.

“Our region has a unique set of cybersecurity assets that no other region in the world can match, including one of the most educated cybersecurity workforces in the country, both Fortune 1000 companies and startup technology firms and entrepreneurs focused on defending our nation’s digital assets, unparalleled research infrastructure through institutions like DARPA and universities, and the only cybersecurity accelerator in the country, MACH37,” said Kilberg.

The Washington, DC area also has become home to a growing cluster of rising data analytics companies and startups. These companies generate significant revenue from creating, analyzing and using data, or providing the tools and skills needed to support the big data and analytics ecosystem. Some top data analytics companies in the region include TrackMaven, Clarabridge, Syntasa, Tahzoo and WealthEngine.

“The region’s proximity to the federal government, which produces, stores and manages some of the largest data sets in the world, its historic workforce expertise in managing and interpreting data, and its many outstanding institutions of higher learning make it uniquely positioned to leverage the growing demand for Big Data and Analytics services,” said Kilberg.

Northern Virginia continues to be a leading global destination not just for data centers, but also for the wider ecosystem that relies on the data center as the commerce platform of the 21st century. The region is one of the country’s largest data center employers with Northern Virginia being home to the largest concentration of private sector data center employment and locations in Virginia, according to a Northern Virginia data center report.

Right now one of the biggest challenges for tech employers in the region is finding qualified employees for the most in-demand positions.

In December 2016, NVTC published the Greater Washington Workforce Needs Assessment, which showed that the top five highest demand technology job types in the region were software development, cybersecurity, big data and analytics, data centers and cloud infrastructure, and network systems. Virginia ranked first in the country for number of cybersecurity job openings posted according to a Cyberseek study from April 2016 to March 2017.

Job growth in the IT field is projected to increase by 1.7 percent annually over the next 10 years, adding 34,000 new IT jobs to the region’s economy by 2027.

“The tech workforce shortage is presenting immediate opportunities for all sectors and the academic community to come together to get creative in attracting tech talent,” said Kilberg.

One example of such collaboration is NVTC’s new partnership with Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). This new partnership reflects NVTC and NOVA’s joint commitment to ensuring the Northern Virginia region has a robust pipeline of highly skilled information technology workers.

“NOVA is committed to creating a workforce pipeline that meets both the capacity and the competency requirements that are driving our regional economy,” said Scott Ralls, President of NOVA. “Partnering more closely with NVTC and its members will allow us to develop programs, curriculum and content that align with the needs of the region’s technology employers.”


Raleigh and its surrounding Research Triangle have a longstanding history of innovation. A well-known hub for life sciences, the region also is experiencing rapid growth in its technology sector. Between 2010-2015, Raleigh saw a 38.5 percent increase in technology jobs, second only to San Francisco and ahead of Austin, Boston and other innovation hubs.

Much of the tech activity occurs in the Research Triangle Park (RTP), a first-of-its-kind research campus established more than 50 years ago, and the three tier-one research universities that make up the three points of the Triangle—NC State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University.

centers of technology
PowerAmerica brings many of the world’s leading wide bandgap semiconductor makers and researchers together to improve the performance of devices that incorporate SiC and GaN technologies. Above: Researcher with new SiC wafer.

“If you’re looking to locate somewhere in this country, you want to be where other people are doing great things,” said General Nick Justice, Executive Director of PowerAmerica, a next-generation Power Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute located within the RTP. “There is this symbiotic relationship with people that are successful, excited and energetic—that’s where you want to be. It’s contagious. That’s the Raleigh Technology Park—that’s what North Carolina is all about.”

According to a new study from Progressive Policy Institute, a Washington, DC-based think tank, the region is on track to be part of the next wave of tech startup hubs. In the last two years, the rate of startup companies founded across the country has accelerated and that growth has begun to shrink the gap between well-known tech hubs, such as San Francisco, New York and Boston, and smaller metro areas across the country.

Companies are drawn to the region due to its bustling tech scene, rich talent pools from nearby universities and a high quality of life. Raleigh is now home to more than 400 startups, as well as new accelerator programs designed to bring more startup companies to the region, where tech companies including IBM, Citrix and Red Hat already have operations.

The Innovators Program Inc. is a three-month accelerator program aimed at building high-growth tech business in the region. To date, the program has included 22 internal innovation teams from both Red Hat and Citrix, as well as 37 startups, 10 of which have reported receiving $500,000 or more in seed funding.

NC State offers tailored programs like the Entrepreneurship Initiative and Tech Incubator on its Centennial Campus. Another accelerator program, known as ThinkHouse NC, is a nine-month program that provides mentorship and startup training to recent college graduates launching their own entrepreneurial ventures.

The most recent high-tech announcements include Citrix’ $5 million expansion which will add 400 jobs to its downtown operation in Raleigh, and the tech startup from Silicon Valley, CloudGenix, which is moving to RTP as part of its East Coast expansion.

PowerAmerica, one of the first federal Manufacturing USA institutes to be established in the U.S., is playing a critical role in making Raleigh-Durham a magnet for high-tech growth and next generation manufacturing jobs. Located on the Centennial Campus of NC State, PowerAmerica is focused on accelerating the development and large-scale adoption of wide bandgap semiconductor technology, which is more energy-efficient than power electronics widely available today.

The institute has formed a network of collaboration between manufacturers and end users and funds projects that enhance performance capability, improve reliability and reduce the cost of this technology.

“We are bringing leading companies, universities and federal research together under one roof to help develop the next generation of power electronics,” said Justice. “We are helping build a critical ecosystem around technology and business to help solve problems and many startups thrive on that.”

Backed by $70 million from the U.S. Department of Energy over five years, PowerAmerica is working to make these wide bandgap semiconductor technologies cost-competitive with silicon-based power electronics.

“We are taking new materials like silicon carbide and gallium nitride and are trying to accelerate the adoption of those technologies in power electronics across a wide range of products and systems such as the grid, automotives, industrial motors, electric motors, end user applications and even data centers,” said Justice. “We’re doing that because of those materials’ advantages in size, weight and the amount of power that you can use them in.”

One of its biggest automotive success stories is John Deere, a major manufacturer of agricultural, construction, and forestry machinery, diesel engines and drivetrains used in heavy equipment and lawn care equipment.

Through PowerAmerica, John Deere has formed a collaboration with researchers from the Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory to develop a 200 kW 1050 VDC silicon carbide-based inverter. The inverter will convert vehicle engine power into electrical power needed for hybrid motors in heavy-duty construction vehicles.

“John Deere has demonstrated and worked through systems engineering efforts to be able to get significant, game-changing savings in fuel costs,” said Justice. “They are going to revolutionize the construction and agricultural market and that whole industry.”

PowerAmerica brings many of the world’s leading wide bandgap semiconductor manufacturers, material providers and end-users together with experts from top research universities and government agencies not only to reduce the cost, but also improve the performance and reliability of wide bandgap devices and the systems that incorporate SiC and GaN technologies.

“We provide value to our members through acceleration of their wide bandgap concept-to-prototype cycle,” said Justice. “By accelerating the market introduction of wide bandgap products, industry members grow their business and university members benefit through collaboration with industry.”

One of its newest members is the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster (RTCC), an initiative of business, government, academic and nonprofit leaders focused on accelerating the growth of the Research Triangle Region’s cleantech economy. Its dozens of members are leaders in the region’s energy industry.

“PowerAmerica is happy to join forces with RTCC and its many member companies in the Triangle region working toward building a clean energy economy,” said Justice. “Our mutual focus on improved energy efficiency makes this partnership a natural fit.”

The Institute is funding market-driven product development projects identified by industry leaders to promote the application of SiC and GaN technologies. The products include applications in passenger car and heavy-duty vehicles, medium voltage drives, solar inverters, and power grid converters, among many others.

These targeted projects will each lead to new products using wide bandgap power electronics that will deliver immediate energy productivity improvements and early commercial success—all while building demand, scaling up production volumes and boosting competition.

“For example, you can look at LED lighting, the electric grid, as well as the automotive industry’s adoption of electric vehicles and can see how incredibly efficient they are,” said Justice. “We are providing new exciting opportunities for the adoption of new technologies and the acceleration of its use in industry.”

Another game-changing success story for PowerAmerica is X-FAB, a manufacturer of silicon wafers for automotive, industrial, consumer, medical and other applications. The institute helped convert X-FAB’s Lubbock, Texas facility into the world’s first foundry of its kind. The new silicon carbide (SiC) 6-inch wafer is a technology that officials said will help drive the efficient and effective use of power in technology.

“I believe this was one of the biggest success stories of the year,” said Justice. “X-FAB was able to solve the manufacturing challenges that breathed new life into an old foundry.”

The majority of SiC products are produced on 4-inch waters, but with the deployment of the high-temperature implanter, X-FAB will have the capability to produce the silicon carbide products on 6-inch wafer.

“The support that we have got from PowerAmerica and the Department of Energy have really helped us to accelerate that journey we have taken into silicon carbide,” said Lloyd Whetzel, CEO of X-FAB.

Another focus for PowerAmerica is to help develop a next generation workforce focused on advanced technology. Its Undergraduate Research Scholars Program prepares undergrads with the technical and professional skills needed to succeed in the wide bandgap industry, while its newly launched “Wide Bandgap Devices & Applications” Short Course aims to teach power electronics professionals the basics of SiC and GaN and how to incorporate the technology products and systems.

To develop the short course, PowerAmerica sought input from industry leaders to determine where workforce knowledge gaps are and the best way to address them.

“What we’ve learned over time is that apprenticeships and industry education and training courses are incredibly important,” said Justice. “We’re getting manufacturing training courses ready to go and bringing the knowledge right to the factory line. We are focused on making sure our workforce and industry are ready to make a transition in technologies.”


Maryland upped its formidable high-tech resources earlier this year by merging the Chesapeake Regional Tech Council (CRTC) and the Tech Council of Maryland into an umbrella group that is now known as the Maryland Tech Council.

Gov. Larry Hogan presided over the announcement of the new tech council at a ceremony in Annapolis in January. Tamie Howie, CRTC’s Executive Director was named as the new Maryland Tech Council CEO.

“With [nearly] 700 tech companies under your belt, people listen to you,” Howie said at the announcement in Annapolis. Joining forces creates one statewide organization that can speak to legislators as they look to create a more startup-friendly economic environment, vie for dollars and run statewide programming, Howie noted.

“With a merged tech council, it shows that we have a community here. It shows we have one association that has an umbrella organization that makes sure all of the resources are here,” Howie said. “I think you’re going to see companies grow faster. I think you’re going to see more collaboration. I think you’re going to see more people want to be part of that movement.”

The 16-employee Maryland Tech Council will be based in Rockville, and have offices in Annapolis. Each organization is contributing about equally as far as member companies. The Rockville-based Tech Council of Maryland was largely focused on life science and biotech companies in Montgomery County and other areas around D.C., with some Baltimore companies. Annapolis-based CRTC had a more general industry focus, and members from the Baltimore area and Howard County.

Howie said there was some overlap in events, but only eight companies were members of both organizations. Along with advocating, the group wants to help members connect and learn.

“There’s so much cross pollination today between app developers into biotech into healthcare into cybersecurity, that it really completes the circle,” said Bytegrid CTO Jason Silva, who will chair the new organization along with Rene LaVigne of Iron Bow Technologies.

Maryland’s I-270 Bio Corridor is a partnership of local and state economic development and educational partners committed to promoting the vibrancy and importance of the biosciences along the I-270 corridor and the greater National Capital Region. The Washington, D.C./Baltimore region is home to federal laboratories, federal agencies, and hundreds of life science companies. The region strives to be a Top 3 biotech hub by 2023.

Biotech discoveries are in Maryland’s DNA. From being the first to map the human genome to developing the first rapid test for Ebol and the first FDA approved blood test for colon cancer, entrepreneurs and companies are thriving in Maryland. The state is home to one of the largest life sciences clusters in the U.S., with 500+ biotech firms, 2,000 life science companies, the NIH, the FDA, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, and plenty of funding and guidance resources.

Maryland also leads the world in adult stem-cell production and vaccine development. This healthcare expertise and innovative culture also have made Maryland a leader in Health IT and medical device development with a number of growing companies focused on leveraging technology to improve health while lowering costs. The Maryland BioHealth and Life Sciences team, with office locations in Rockville and Baltimore, is dedicated to supporting and growing this vital industry sector along the I-270 corridor and throughout the state.

A good example of a thriving biotech location in MD is Frederick. Home to more than 80 bioscience companies and the northern anchor of the I-270 Technology Corridor, Frederick is an essential part of the D.C. Metro Region’s biotech cluster. Frederick area bioscience companies enjoy an innovative, supportive, and collaborative environment along with an excellent quality of life. Frederick is fortunate have strong biotechnology transfer opportunities from the federal labs at Fort Detrick and the National Cancer Institute to accelerate the pace of medical research by forging unique scientific partnerships. Frederick’s highly skilled and educated workforce help support this industry.

Rockville is the center of Maryland’s biohealth corridor with 150+ industry-related companies and close proximity to the FDA and NIH. The city’s economic development agency, REDI, assists companies seeking to launch, locate and expand in Rockville, offering guidance and support to companies at all stages of growth.