Southwest Virginia Transportation Technology Proposal Loses Massive Inflow of Federal Funds

A Virginia Tech-led coalition seeking to boost the region’s work in the autonomous and electric vehicle sectors has fallen short of an expected influx of up to $100 million in federal funding.

The US Economic Development Administration on Friday announced the 21 winners of the regional Build Back Better Challenge, which is touted as a mechanism to help rebuild regional economies and create jobs in sectors including clean energy, advanced manufacturing and biotechnology. . The winners, who represented 19 states, will each receive between $25 million and $65 million.

The Southwest Virginia group was named in December as one of 60 finalists for the awards, out of a pool of 529 applicants. His proposal focused on how to make the transport of goods from one place to another more ecological and efficient, taking advantage of the existing transport cluster in the region. It focused on three projects: a test bed for autonomous commercial vehicles, a test area for delivery drones, and a training and business support network for the sector.

“As much as we all would have enjoyed winning, looking at all the opportunities that come from this effort and the relationships we’ve built, this was a year well spent,” John Provo, director of the Center for Economics and Community. Compromise at Virginia Tech, he said in a message to the coalition’s 150 public and private partners.

Along with the other finalists, the coalition will become part of the Economic Development Administration’s long-term community of practice, which will include a “marketplace” for member regional coalitions to access a variety of funding sources and help members improve processes and policies. , he said.

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The work the group has done to position itself in the Build Back Better competition also provides a potential focus for the region to compete for one of the so-called tech hubs to be created through the recently passed CHIPS-Plus Act, Provo said. .

The bill, best known as an attempt to bring semiconductor manufacturing back to the US but also includes other technology provisions, requires the federal government to invest $10 billion in at least 20 of these centers, no less than a third of which should “significantly benefit a small or rural community.”

The US EDA could open an application for the program as soon as next year, Provo said.

A Virginia project received Build Back Better funding: The Virginia Biotech Research Partners Authority received $52.9 million to expand the national supply chain of essential medicines and critical active pharmaceutical ingredients. The grant will be based on a growing pharmaceutical manufacturing group between Richmond and Petersburg.

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