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A suite of projects intended to bolster the region’s stake in the autonomous and electric vehicle sectors is in the running for up to $100 million in federal funding, Virginia Tech said Thursday. A coalition of 50 public and private organizations led by the university is one of 60 finalists for awards through the $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge, funded through the American Rescue Plan with the goal of boosting economic recovery from the pandemic recovery.

The group’s proposal focuses on how to make moving goods from place to place greener and more efficient, and it builds on the region’s existing transportation cluster, which includes companies such as Volvo Trucks, Eldor Corp. and Torc Robotics, as well as research groups such as the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

The proposal centers on three projects: a test bed for autonomous commercial vehicles, a test zone for delivery drones, and a training and entrepreneurial support network for the sector.

The third project would build a network of universities, community colleges and other agencies to provide training, technical assistance and entrepreneurial development to support the industry.

A new Manufacturing Technologies Training Studio would be created at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. More than two dozen partners, including Virginia Western Community College, GENEDGE Alliance and the New River Valley Regional Commission, would create programming.

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