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A New River Valley Regional Commission-led consortium has secured a prestigious $500,000 federal Tech Hubs Strategy Development Grant, a testament to the region’s growing expertise in additive manufacturing and applied materials. This award will fast-track efforts to assist small- and medium-sized manufacturers in adopting new technologies, expanding their businesses, and generating jobs across various skill levels.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration received over 400 applications for the Tech Hubs Program, established under the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 to boost innovation by enhancing a region’s capacity to manufacture, commercialize, and deploy critical technologies. In Phase 1, the EDA has designated 31 Tech Hubs and granted 29 Strategy Development Grants, with Phase 2 offering implementation grants ranging from $40 million to $70 million.

The New River Valley-based proposal centers around world-class technology assets, including Virginia Tech and MELD Manufacturing Corporation, a maker of large-scale metal 3D printers. Leveraging the expertise of the Virginia Tech College of Engineering’s Advanced Manufacturing Team, the consortium aims to create a globally competitive hub of excellence in advanced manufacturing technologies, contributing to national competitiveness and security.

The Strategy Development Grant provides the consortium, comprising more than 15 partners, with essential resources to refine its strategy and position for future funding opportunities. The CHIPS and Science Act authorizes the Tech Hubs Program at $10 billion, and EDA has received $500 million (5% of the authorized amount) so far. Additional funding from Congress could lead to more implementation grants beyond Phase 2.

Bipartisan support from Virginia’s congressional delegation, including U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and U.S. Reps. Morgan Griffith and Rob Wittman, played a pivotal role in the consortium’s success. Nanci Hardwick, CEO of MELD Manufacturing, highlighted the significance of additive manufacturing in supplying production parts for industries like semiconductor equipment manufacturing, aerospace, space, and shipbuilding, and the grant will help in developing a growth plan that benefits the community.

This regional collaboration builds on a federal Build Back Better proposal led by Virginia Tech last year. John Provo, Executive Director of Virginia Tech’s Center for Economic and Community Engagement, stressed that the grant reflects the region’s momentum and commitment to additive manufacturing, further strengthening its position in the tech industry.

Consortium members include various organizations and institutions, such as Hollingsworth & Vose, Radford University, New River Community College, MELD PrintWorks, Fastech, Volvo Trucks, Virginia Manufacturers Association, Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, and many more, spanning several counties and cities in the region.