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Regional consortium awarded federal Tech Hubs Strategy Development Grant

Oct. 23, 2023 – A consortium led by the New River Valley Regional Commission has been selected for a highly competitive $500,000 federal Tech Hubs Strategy Development Grant.

“This is exciting news and a testament to our region’s burgeoning prowess in additive manufacturing and applied materials,” said Kevin Byrd, executive director of the New River Valley Regional Commission. “This award will accelerate our work to help small- and medium-sized manufacturers adopt and implement these new technologies, grow their business, and create jobs at all skill levels.”

The U.S. Economic Development Administration received more than 400 applications for the Tech Hubs Program. It was created as part of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 to drive innovation by strengthening a region’s capacity to manufacture, commercialize, and deploy critical technologies.

On Monday, the EDA announced it has designated 31 Tech Hubs and awarded 29 Strategy Development Grants in Phase 1 of the program. Tech Hub designees are eligible to apply for a handful of $40 million to $70 million implementation grants that will be awarded in Phase 2.

The New River Valley-based proposal centers on a set of world class technology assets that includes Virginia Tech and MELD Manufacturing Corporation, maker of large scale, metal 3D printers. It heavily leverages the Virginia Tech College of Engineering’s Advanced Manufacturing Team, led by Professor Chris Williams. This team, composed of 15 faculty from across the college, conducts research and education around advanced manufacturing technologies, such as additive manufacturing and advanced materials. 

“This is another step toward our goal of creating a globally competitive hub of excellence in this technology area, which is critical for our national competitiveness and security” said Williams, the L.S. Randolph Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. "I see this opportunity as yet another way in which we strive to fulfill Virginia Tech's land-grant mission."

The Strategy Development Grant provides the consortium, which includes more than 15 partners, with critical resources to work together to refine its strategy and position for future funding opportunities, Byrd said.

The CHIPS and Science Act authorized the Tech Hubs Program at $10 billion; EDA has so far received $500 million – 5 percent – of the authorized dollars. If additional funding is appropriated by Congress, the EDA could offer additional implementation grants beyond Phase 2. Strategy Development Award consortiums are invited by the EDA to apply for future application rounds.

Byrd believes the unique technology and skills across the geographic footprint of the consortium – including multiple partners in the Danville area – helped it earn designation as an inaugural Tech Hubs Strategy Development Consortium. He also credited bipartisan support from Virginia’s congressional delegation. The grant application included a joint letter of support signed by U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, along with U.S. Reps. Morgan Griffith and Rob Wittman.

Nanci Hardwick, CEO of MELD Manufacturing, said additive manufacturing is a growing industry that offers the region a chance to distinguish itself.

“Large scale additive manufacturing is critical to supply production parts for industries such as semiconductor equipment manufacturing, the machines that make chips, as well as aerospace, space, and shipbuilding,” she said. “We need to expand our capability to deliver these parts as fast as we can and this grant will allow us to bring together key partners to develop a plan for growth that benefits the community.”

The regional collaboration behind the Tech Hubs consortium’s proposal builds off 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, said the strategy development endorsement from the EDA reflects the momentum of the region and validates the focus in additive manufacturing.

“It's a testament to the dedication and collaboration within our community,” he said. “With this award, we'll be able to strengthen our region's position in the tech industry."

Consortium members include: Hollingsworth & Vose, which operates a Floyd County location and makes advanced materials; Radford University; New River Community College; MELD PrintWorks, a spinoff of MELD Manufacturing; Fastech, a Danville-based 3D metal printing and engineering firm; Volvo Trucks in Dublin; the Virginia Manufacturers Association; the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center; the Verge alliance; the New River/Mount Rogers Workforce Development Board; Onward New River Valley; the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance; and the Danville-based Institute for Advanced Learning and Research. The counties of Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, and Pulaski and the cities of Danville and Radford are members too.


Media contact: Kevin Byrd | kbyrd@nrvrc.org | New River Valley Regional Commission