A state panel has awarded nearly $300,000 to a nonprofit group that will coordinate efforts to enhance the technology ecosystem in the Roanoke, New River Valley and Lynchburg regions.
The grant from the GO Virginia state board comes with $150,000 in matching funds from local supporters.
The board also approved $100,000 for a study of the best future use of the Central Virginia Training Center, a state institution in Madison Heights that is scheduled to close next year, according to a news release from GO Virginia’s Region 2, which represents the Roanoke, New River, Lynchburg and Alleghany Highland areas.
GO Virginia is a statewide initiative designed to encourage Virginia’s economic growth through the creation of high-wage jobs. Nine regional councils vet applications and recommend projects in their respective areas.
In October, the Region 2 council backed $299,995 in state funding for the Valleys Innovation Council, a Blacksburg-based nonprofit formed last year, to create a Regional Entrepreneurship Initiative to facilitate coalitions and stakeholder engagement.
The initiative will convene a steering group to oversee efforts in three sub-regions: the New River Valley, the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Highlands, and the Lynchburg area.
A pipeline of projects will be developed, with one measurement of progress being the number of grants from GO Virginia and other sources to support business startups and other innovation and entrepreneurship efforts in the region’s industry clusters.
Fields include advanced manufacturing, life science and health care, and emerging technologies such as autonomous systems, blockchain and cybersecurity.
While the area tops state and national averages for academic research expenditures, that has failed to translate into economic growth at the rate desired by organizers. Region 2 has a 5% rate of new business formation, compared to 7% for Virginia and 8% for the United States.
Aiming to reverse that trend, the Valleys Innovation Council has outlined a number of steps to be implemented on a quarterly basis through the end of 2021.