• Become an SSTI Member

    As the most comprehensive resource available for those involved in technology-based economic development, SSTI offers the services that are needed to help build tech-based economies.  Learn more about membership...

  • Subscribe to the SSTI Weekly Digest

    Each week, the SSTI Weekly Digest delivers the latest breaking news and expert analysis of critical issues affecting the tech-based economic development community. Subscribe today!

West Virginia Group Offers Blueprint for State Tech Economy

March 25, 2009

TechConnect West Virginia (TechConnectWV) released a new plan on Monday to build a larger and more robust technology economy. The report, West Virginia Blueprint for Technology-Based Economic Development, proposes a four-part, general strategy for TBED and targets several key industries for development.

Two years of study went into the report, which highlights the success that neighboring states, such as Pennsylvania and North Carolina, have had in investing in TBED. The initial study concluded that West Virginia would have to move quickly to remain competitive in light of the progress already being made in other states.

To do so, the state would have to overcome several barriers to high-tech growth, including a lack of technology talent, early stage capital, serial entrepreneurs, national awareness and technology leadership. A successful plan would have to build on the state's strengths such as its large number of nonprofit, academic and federal research institutions, an increased focus on tech transfer and commercialization at its public universities and a growing technology sector in the North Central part of the state.

The plan proposes 18 action steps to help build a thriving statewide technology community over the next few years. Key recommendations include:

  • Increasing the number of STEM researchers at West Virginia University and Marshall University by 20 percent;
  • Double competitive funding from federal agencies every five years;
  • Create a TBED office at the state Department of Commerce;
  • Create an early-stage, proof-of-concept gap fund of $2.5 million for technology development and commercialization; and,
  • Increase by ten percent per year the number of doctorates awarded in STEM fields by 2015.

TechConnectWV also released two supplemental reports that outline strategies for specific industries. The reports analyze the state's current strengths and challenges in advanced energy and energy-related technology and the identification, security and sensing technology industry.

The general report identifies the energy industry as a nearer-term opportunity for growth in West Virginia. Although alternative energy sources should be a vital part of their energy plan, the report highlights the state's plentiful and inexpensive fossil-based fuel resources as its key advantage in becoming a global leader in advanced energy. The plan calls for aligning the state's many organizations associated with the energy industry and promoting greater collaboration between companies and research institutions. To accomplish this, the report recommends creating an energy steering committee with sub-committees focused on high-priority areas, taking a greater national role in energy by establishing both in-state and interstate energy programs and establishing a new industry-university collaborative center at West Virginia University.

Biometrics is also proposed as a nearer-term opportunity for West Virginia. The plan calls for establishing a lead committee, attracting more biometric support companies and aggressively promoting the state as a leader in the industry. Specific action steps include realignment of research at state-controlled facilities to spur the creation of new biometric companies, additional funding for related technology commercialization at state universities, and more funding for university-industry collaboration.

Two more reports are expected in the coming months, which will provide similar plans for the advanced materials and chemicals industry and molecular diagnostics, therapeutics and targets delivery systems.

West Virginia Blueprint for Technology-Based Economic Development is available at: http://www.techconnectwv.com/news-downloads/

West Virginia