Virginia’s proposed legislation for innovation gathering steam

November 21, 2019
By: Ellen Marrison

While Virginia has worked over the past 30 years to build their innovation economy, this past year it changed up the game. SSTI recently talked with Robby Demeria, Virginia’s deputy secretary of commerce and trade for technology, about the planning underway in Virginia and how the commonwealth is proceeding with a new initiative to grow their economy.

The state’s efforts over the past 30 years has resulted in a fragmented system, Demeria said, and legislation proposed last year that was supposed to address that failed to gain a foothold and lacked broad-based support. The new legislation, which has met with wide-spread support, would create a new authority, called the Commonwealth of Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority (Authority), to provide oversight. The new legislation would also designate a lead managing non-profit (NewCo) for innovation-led development in Virginia. A governing board would provide oversight and accountability “to ensure that transformative and measurable results are generated,” according to the plan.

The Authority would be able to provide funds to existing organizations to carry out programmatic activities (outsourcing the service delivery mechanism, as appropriate) while also delivering some key services when needed in strategic domain areas that existing organizations are not currently serving. Both the Authority and the non-profit would fall under the purview of the Commerce and Trade Secretariat. The current Innovation & Entrepreneurship Investment Authority (IEIA) and the Virginia Research Investment Committee (VRIC) would sunset. Under the plan, NewCo would build on the existing Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) and VRIC staff resources, but with a possible re-branding and restructuring, Demeria said.

The Authority and NewCo would oversee three lines of business:

  • Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, which would connect regional entrepreneurial support services and administer a competitive grant fund among other duties;
  • Investment, which would include fostering the development of Virginia technology-based companies through direct investment in early-stage financing, and indirect investment in Fund of Funds, sidecar funds, and support of Virginia’s angel network; and,
  • HigherEd Engagement/Research/Commercialization, which would promote R&D in Virginia and evaluate and award grants and loans from a Translational Technology and Commercialization Fund.

Demeria said he expects the proposed legislation to undergo some changes, but that he was encouraged by the support it has already experienced, and noted that the one thing that failed previously, they got right this time — the amount of engagement from the community.

“You can’t do something this big with a small set of stakeholders,” Demeria said.

Virginialegislation, innovation