Baltimore region selected as federal tech hub for artificial intelligence and biotechnology
Credit: Baltimore Sun
The Baltimore region has been awarded a federal designation as a national tech hub, which could generate hundreds of millions of dollars of investment and create tens of thousands of jobs.
The region, which includes Baltimore and seven surrounding counties, was selected 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, including $500 million appropriated for an initial round.
President Joe Biden announced the hubs Monday, part of a program designed to invest in high-potential U.S. regions and make them globally competitive in emerging technologies.
Mark Anthony Thomas, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, joined other designees for the announcement at the White House. The GBC organized the region’s bid, which was developed by a 38-member consortium of business and technology leaders.
“This designation will catalyze a transformative era of growth, innovation, and equitable economic opportunity for our region,” Thomas said in a news release.
The designation is expected to generate $4.2 billion in economic impact and 52,000 jobs by 2030, according to GBC estimates.
The regional hub plans to focus on artificial intelligence and biotechnology, a combination still in the early stages of adoption. It refers to the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning on health data for applications such as diagnostics and drug development.
“By harnessing the power of data science and biotechnology, we stand poised to become pioneers in predictive health, with positive impacts on individual patient well-being and community health,” said Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System and chair of GBC’s board. “The possibilities for our region are limitless.”
Members of Maryland’s congressional delegation said Monday that they expect the program to jump-start high-tech industries and entrepreneurs across the Baltimore region.
“This is about creating new jobs and emerging industries for the long term,” said a statement from the delegation’s Democratic members, including Sen. Ben Cardin, Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Kweisi Mfume and David Trone.
The designation will bring national and even international attention to the Baltimore region’s potential and its place at the forefront of tech innovation, said Gov. Wes Moore, also a Democrat.
It “will help grow a more equitable economy that will expand opportunity, lead to better outcomes for our residents and make us an internationally leading innovation hub,” Moore said in a statement.
Baltimore submitted its application in August to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. A group of area businesses, colleges and universities, workforce development experts, and state and local government officials are expected to work together to develop the hub.
The bid touted the Baltimore region as an established home to more than 400 tech startups with access to federal and academic research and development spending and more than a dozen accelerators supporting companies. The region also has a history of commercialization in medical diagnostics, health care analytics, medical devices, and gene and drug therapeutics, the application said.
“For years, the city of Baltimore and the entire region have been nurturing a growing tech industry and welcoming Baltimoreans from all walks of life to help shape the future of tech,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said in a statement.
The official designation will help accelerate that work, spur new innovation and attract residents, the mayor said.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. called the planned hub creation a “game-changer” for the region.
He said he expects the designation to help “provide the support, resources, and opportunities we need to create jobs, grow communities and transform the entire Baltimore region into an innovative hub that create the tools of tomorrow.”
The $10 billion federal initiative, approved as part of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, aims to spur technology-related manufacturing and commercialization in parts of the U.S. with potential to become globally competitive and create jobs in 10 years.
The program aims to diversify technology investment and development beyond Silicon Valley, Boston and New York, which currently attract 80% of tech funding.
Baltimore’s hub will look to combine artificial intelligence, machine learning and autonomy with biotech, medical technology, genomics and synthetic biology, and to commercialize technologies that can improve health at individual, community and national levels.
The technology can be used in areas such as clinical decision-making, bioethics, development of personalized medicine and new therapeutics. Other goals include developing advanced biomanufacturing capabilities and advanced med-tech manufacturing.
The Baltimore consortium has identified 40 tech-related projects requiring $700 million in funding.
The GBC said dozens of businesses and organizations throughout the region helped shape the bid, with 170 letters of support from artificial intelligence and biotech companies. The consortium included the private sector, with firms such as Fearless, Conscious Ventures Partners, Blackbird Labs, Early Charm Ventures and Mindgrub, eight universities, all of the jurisdictions’ economic development agencies and workforce development groups.
The 31 hubs — located across 32 states and Puerto Rico in urban and rural regions — were selected from nearly 400 applications. Hubs are organized around eight general categories, such as autonomous systems, quantum computing, biotechnology, precision medicine, clean energy advancement and semiconductor manufacturing, with each hub specializing in specific technologies.
Other hubs that will focus on “advancing biotechnology: precision and predication” like Baltimore, include the Wisconsin Biohealth Tech Hub, the Birmingham Biotechnology Hub, the Minnesota MedTech 3.0, and the Greater Philadelphia Region Precision Medicine Tech Hub, which will focus on end-to-end precision medicine in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey.
Another neighboring hub includes the Advanced Pharma Manufacturing Tech Hub in Virginia.
Each of the 31 designated hubs will be eligible to move on to a second phase to apply for funding for specific projects. An initial pool of $500 million of the $10 billion has been allocated to distribute among all hubs in the first phase. Hubs are able to apply for $40 million to $70 million each.
The bid marks one of the GBC’s first big initiatives under the leadership of Thomas, who steered economic development in Pittsburgh, New York and Los Angeles before replacing longtime GBC CEO Donald Fry in December, taking over a group that merged last year with the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore.