News Article

Baltimore Tech Hub competes for $70 million in federal funding
March 18, 2024


By: Lorraine Mirabella

After being designated a national tech hub last fall, the Baltimore region is moving on to compete for $70 million in federal funding that would help establish a framework to create tens of thousands of jobs and generate hundreds of millions of dollars of investment.

The region, which includes Baltimore and seven surrounding counties, was selected in October as one of 31 cities or regions for the federal Tech Hubs Program, putting the area in line for a share of $10 billion in federal funding over five years. Baltimore aims to gain recognition as a center for artificial intelligence and biotechnology, a combination still in the early stages of adoption.

Members of a consortium leading the hub unveiled the first proposed projects Monday at Coppin State University during an event with U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Maryland Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller, all Democrats.

The U.S. Commerce Department is expected to select proposals from five to 10 of the 31 designated hubs this summer under a second phase of the federal initiative.

Leaders of Baltimore’s effort submitted an application earlier this month for that second phase of the federal program, which is designed to invest in high-potential U.S. regions and make them globally competitive in emerging technologies.

The Baltimore consortium is seeking $70 million, the maximum available to regions in the second round, with a local match of $7.7 million. The Baltimore region’s five proposed projects would create a sustainable pipeline of workers, establish state-of-the-art biomanufacturing plants, and support entrepreneurship and innovation.

Those types of goals were intended when Congress passed the $10 billion initiative through the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, Cardin said.

“We have untapped resources that we have to utilize if we’re going to be competitive globally,” the senator said.

The projects are expected to create 32,700 direct jobs and 65,600 supplier and induced jobs across various skill levels and sectors over 10 years, according to the Greater Baltimore Committee, organizer of the region’s initial bid developed by business and technology leaders.

Mohan Suntha, the GBC’s chair, said during the roundtable event that a growing number of local tech firms, academic institutions, state and local government entities, economic development organizations and workforce development groups have committed to forming Baltimore’s hub. Suntha, also the president and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System, said all of those organizations want “to have an impact on our nation.”

“This conversation is about what this Baltimore region can do for the nation,” he said.

The region plans to focus on technology that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning on health data for applications such as diagnostics and drug development.

The region’s five proposed projects include:

Biomanufacturing Core — Plans call for expanding U.S. biomanufacturing capacity as a way to boost national security. Project partners would open a pilot biomanufacturing facility in Harford County and launch a Center for Community Impact in Manufacturing with Coppin State University.

The UpRise for Equitech — The project would create a network to help business startups, by working with entrepreneur support organizations to build connections with investors, led by UpSurge Baltimore. Launched in 2021, UpSurge provides mentorship, networking, educational tools and resources for technology entrepreneurs who anchor their companies in the city with a goal of improving equity.

Anchor Innovation Hub – A program to help mainly minority and women biotech business founders and early-stage entrepreneurs commercialize their innovations. Case managers would guide entrepreneurs and startups to apply for advisory and resourcing programs. Morgan State University, Johns Hopkins Tech Ventures and University of Maryland Baltimore would work together on the hub.

The Baltimore Biotech Jobs Initiative — A workforce development program in which project partners would develop education and training pathways to meet biomanufacturing and life sciences demand, led by Catalyte, a Baltimore software firm that uses artificial intelligence to identify and develop talent for its clients.

Regional Innovation Office — A newly created office led by a GBC regional innovation officer would coordinate efforts, track progress and offer leadership.

Currently, states such California, Massachusetts, New York and Texas — attract the lion’s share of venture capital investments, said Mark Anthony Thomas, the GBC’s president and CEO.

“For the champions of inclusive growth and equitech, we’ve been pushing for this for a long time, that the country needs to diversify where entrepreneurs and tech talent have opportunities,” Thomas said.

Focusing on diverse entrepreneurship can have an impact on a community’s health, crime and economic mobility, said Jeff Cherry, a co-chair of the tech hub and CEO of Conscious Venture Lab, which creates programs to train entrepreneurs.

“It’s because we’re going to be providing a sense of hope that things can be different, things don’t have to be as they were before,” Cherry said.

Van Hollen, in an interview after the roundtable, said the federal tech hub designation already is putting Baltimore on the tech map. Though the next round will be competitive as well, the region’s proposal benefits from its strength in private-sector, nonprofit sector and academic talent, he said.

“All of these organizations have made commitments as to what they’re going to contribute to this larger effort,” Van Hollen said. “They’re going to be able to present to the Department of Commerce a very big multiplier effect in terms of the $70 million and what that will leverage in terms of other contributions.”