Baltimore Designated a Tech Hub by New Federal Program

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Baltimore was one of 31 regions designated as a federal “tech hub” by a Biden administration program designed to spur local economies while boosting the United States’ competitive advantage in emerging technologies.  

The Tech Hub program, administered by the Economic Development Administration (EDA), was authorized by the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act, which President Biden signed into law in August 2022. 

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The grant program, which received more than 400 applications, will invest up to $10 billion in U.S. regions with burgeoning growth in areas such as robotics, biotechnology or semiconductor manufacturing, and aims to transform them into globally competitive innovation centers. 

The Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC), a consortium of more than 500 organizations which aims to develop innovative predictive health care technologies by applying artificial intelligence to biotechnologies, led the charge for Baltimore. The consortium convened area tech firms, academic institutions, state and local government entities, economic development organizations, and workforce development partners around identifying tech-related projects that could benefit from valuable funding by the federal government.

“This is truly a game-changer moment for the Baltimore region, a transformational moment in our history, and we’re very proud of getting this designation in phase one,” Pothik Chatterjee, chief economic officer for the GBC, told Commercial Observer. “We have always believed that Baltimore has a thriving tech hub, and it’s been growing and attracting a lot of companies, and it’s great to get this federal recognition for the foundation we have built here.”

GBC and consortium members will now compete for implementation funding in phase two, when the EDA will invest $75 million in up to 10 of the designated hubs. “Now the real work begins, as we compete for the funding in phase two and continued funding in the future phases,” Chatterjee said. “There’s a total of $10 billion, so this is a once-in-a-generation type of opportunity.”

GBC’s submitted bid was focused around five large regional proposals. In phase two,  GBC will develop each concept, strategizing how they would be budgeted if awarded $75 million, Chatterjee explained.

The first concept is a regional accelerator and funding program for the Baltimore area, which would invest in AI-based therapeutic ventures led by minority entrepreneurs and commercializing biotech and digital health, including ethical AI.

The second concept is physical infrastructure, to build an innovation hub in Baltimore that would serve as an anchor for regional innovation. 

“The third concerns biomanufacturing facilities,” Chatterjee said. “We heard President Biden [on Monday] talk about the need for manufacturing in the United States, so we have ‘Made in America’ products and services to compete globally. So, we have a concept for developing a regional biomaterials hub for onshore production of biomaterials to help strengthen our national security supply chain.”

The fourth concept is about lab infrastructure due to Maryland having a shortage of labs over the last five years, with a focus on startups led by women- or minority-owned life science companies.

The final concept surrounds workforce development for training, so as AI and biotech companies come to Baltimore, the jobs can be filled with local residents. 

The timeline for phase two has yet to be announced, but GBC anticipates it will be in early 2024, with a decision coming in the spring.

“This momentous achievement stands as a testament to the remarkable power of collaboration, where diverse sectors have united to forge a path towards enduring economic transformation,” Chatterjee said. “Many businesses and organizations across the region are already making impressive strides in the tech arena. With this designation, we find ourselves on the verge of an exciting future that benefits the greater Baltimore region and its businesses, economy, and livelihood in many ways.” 

Maryland’s congressional delegation, composed of U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Representatives Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume and David Trone, lobbied on behalf of Baltimore in a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo last month.

“The CHIPS and Science Act jump-started the return of manufacturing across the United States and its Regional Tech Hub program will do the same for high-tech industries and the incredible entrepreneurs across the Baltimore region,” the Democrat lawmakers said in a joint statement. “This is about creating new jobs and emerging industries for the long term.”

Keith Loria can be reached at Kloria@commercialobserver.com.