Virginia Economic Review: Fourth Quarter 2021

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The Williamsburg Inn, a AAA Five Diamond-rated resort, comes alive at the holidays, illuminated by thousands of lights. Visitors to Colonial Williamsburg enjoy the sights and sounds of an 18th-century holiday in the largest outdoor living museum in the country.


Contents 16 Industries of the Future Eight industries where disruptive technologies are taking hold and changing the future

18 24 28 34 38 42 46 50

Offshore Wind Commercial Space Unmanned Systems Auto Tech 5G

4 Facts & Figures 6 Selected Virginia Wins 10 Automation and Work in ‘The Fourth Age’: A Conversation With Byron Reese

Ag Tech Data Centers E-Commerce

60 Virginia Universities Prepare to Meet Tomorrow’s Data Science Needs The Commonwealth’s colleges and universities are working to equip students with the skills that will be required to perform data science-related tasks

54 From the Shore to the Stars: A Conversation With Ted Mercer 76 Regional Spotlight

88 Economic Development Partners in Virginia

72 eKare Brings Medical Technology to Smartphones Around the World The Fairfax County company exports its wound management software with help from Virginia’s best-in-class export assistance

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The Alexandria Scottish Walk, held the first Saturday of December each year, honors the city’s Scottish heritage and features bagpipers, drummers, dancers, Scottie dogs, and Santa Claus himself.


Virginia’s Role in Industries Disrupting (and Creating) the Future VIRGINIA IS A HOTBED of innovation,

home to world-class research institutions and companies that invest billions of dollars in research and development every year. The Commonwealth boasts the fourth-highest federal research and development expenditures in the country and is home to a quarter of the country’s federally funded R&D centers, along with the country’s top higher education system (SmartAsset, 2021). In addition to those structural advantages, Virginia’s strategic location and openness to new technologies have placed it at the forefront of disruptive industries. Easy access to the open ocean and facilities equipped to handle massive construction projects helped the city of Portsmouth and The Port of Virginia’s Portsmouth Marine Terminal land the first offshore wind turbine blade facility in the United States, a project of Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy. The Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore — one of just two launch sites on the East Coast — was a testing site for space-bound rockets before NASA was NASA. The Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership at Virginia Tech secured Federal Aviation Administration unmanned air system test center status in part due to existing Virginia research facilities like Wallops and NASA’s Langley Research Center, leading to the town of Christiansburg in the New River Valley hosting Wing’s commercial drone delivery trials — the first in the United States. In this issue of Virginia Economic Review, we highlight eight innovation-driven industries with transformative potential in the United States — offshore wind, commercial space, unmanned systems, automotive technologies, 5G, agriculture, data centers, and e-commerce. These

industries are already disrupting factors as significant as the way energy is produced and used, how goods are ordered and moved, and how information is shared across global networks. We also talk with two thought leaders with insight into the industries of the future — futurist and technology expert Byron Reese and Maj. Gen. Ted Mercer, the new CEO and executive director of Virginia Space. On a personal note, this issue of Virginia Economic Review will be my last as CEO of VEDP, as I will be departing in January to lead Strada Education Network, which will enable me to advance at the national level much of the work VEDP has spearheaded at the state level in Virginia. It has been a privilege every day to lead this special organization. I’m pleased to be turning over the reins to VEDP Executive Vice President Jason El Koubi who will serve as interim CEO.  Jason will ensure continuity of VEDP’s goals, initiatives, and impact, as well as maintain the communicative and collaborative approach we have taken with our local, regional, and state partners over the last several years. Thank you for your interest in the Commonwealth of Virginia! Best regards,

Stephen Moret President and CEO, Virginia Economic Development Partnership @StephenMoret


Facts Figures

7.6% 25% People Working in STEM Occupations



in U.S.



in South

10% National Science Foundation, 2018


in Higher Education R&D Expenditures

National Science Foundation, 2019 4


U.S. Federally Funded Research and Development Centers

National Science Foundation, 2021

1 #6 #



Unmanned Aerial Systems Business Facilities, 2020



Offshore Wind Power (MW by 2035) Business Facilities, 2021

Most Educated State Business Facilities, 2021

Top States for Federal Research and Development Funding National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, 2019



Small Business Innovation Research Awards U.S. Small Business Administration, 2020


Selected Virginia Wins SCHOCK GmbH, the inventor of the quartz composite sink, will invest $85 million to establish its first U.S. manufacturing operation at Patriot Centre Industrial Park in Henry County in the Southern Virginia region. Virginia competed with Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina for the project, which will create 355 new jobs. Headquartered in Germany, SCHOCK invented the quartz composite sink in 1979. The company holds more than 100 patents and offers a broad product portfolio of more than 200 sink models in over 40 colors. Its CRISTADUR® GREEN LINE sinks are made of approximately 99% natural, renewable, or recycled raw materials. Support for SCHOCK’s job creation will be provided by the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program, a workforce initiative created by VEDP in collaboration with the Virginia Community College System and other higher education partners. The program, which launched in 2019, accelerates new facility startups through the direct delivery of recruitment and training services that are fully customized to a company’s unique products, processes, equipment, standards, and culture. All program services are provided at no cost to qualified new and expanding companies as an incentive for job creation.

We are thrilled to have found the ideal location in Henry County. As an industrial business hub, the region has a well-qualified and dedicated workforce, and its geographic location and inter-regional infrastructure are perfect for our needs. RALF BOBERG CEO, SCHOCK GmbH



Selected Virginia Wins Central Virginia

New River Valley

Southern Virginia

Jobs: 64 New Jobs CapEx: $27.7M Locality: Albemarle County

Jobs: 63 New Jobs CapEx: $11M Locality: Pulaski County

Jobs: 62 New Jobs CapEx: $1.7M Locality: City of Danville

Bonumose, Inc.

The Patton Logistics Group

Greater Fredericksburg Amazon

Jobs: 500 New Jobs Locality: Stafford County

Greater Richmond Richmond National Group, Inc.

Jobs: 70 New Jobs CapEx: $175K Locality: Henrico County

Hampton Roads Aery Aviation, LLC

Jobs: 211 New Jobs CapEx: $15.3M Locality: City of Newport News

Prism Maritime LLC

Jobs: 166 New Jobs CapEx: $4M Locality: City of Chesapeake

Northern Shenandoah Valley Evolve Services, Inc.

Jobs: 84 New Jobs CapEx: $1.3M Locality: Frederick County

Jobs: 375 New Jobs CapEx: $300M Locality: City of Danville/ Pittsylvania County

VF Corporation

Jobs: 82 New Jobs CapEx: $10.2M Locality: Henry County

Jobs: 40 New Jobs CapEx: $700K Locality: Fairfax County

Southwest Virginia

Intact Technology


Jobs: 41 New Jobs Locality: Fairfax County


Jobs: 285 New Jobs CapEx: $5.4M Locality: City of Norton

Shenandoah Valley

Virginia’s Gateway Region

Jobs: 52 New Jobs CapEx: $30M Locality: Augusta County

Jobs: 94 New Jobs CapEx: $101.7M Locality: Prince George County


Veronesi Holding S.p.A.

SVT Robotics

Virginia Industrial Plastics, Inc.

Jobs: 37 New Jobs CapEx: $101K Locality: City of Norfolk

Tyson Foods, Inc.

Northern Virginia

Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy

Jobs: 310 New Jobs CapEx: $200M Locality: City of Portsmouth

Kegerreis Digital Marketing

Service Center Metals

Jobs: 150 New Jobs Locality: Rockingham County

Jobs: 92 New Jobs CapEx: $6.5M Locality: Rockingham County

I81-I77 Crossroads Blue Star NBR, LLC/ Blue Star-AGI, Inc.

Jobs: Nearly 2,500 New Jobs CapEx: $714M Locality: Wythe County

Roanoke Region New River Valley

Southwest Virginia I81-I77 Crossroads


Northern Shenandoah Valley

Washington, D.C.

Northern Virginia Shenandoah Valley Central Virginia

Greater Fredericksburg

Northern Neck

Middle Peninsula Greater Richmond Lynchburg Region

Eastern Shore South Central Virginia

Southern Virginia

Virginia’s Gateway Region Hampton Roads


Automation and Work in

‘The Fourth Age’

A Conversation With Byron Reese Byron Reese is an entrepreneur, speaker, author, and futurist. VEDP Executive Vice President Jason El Koubi spoke with Reese about the progression of technology and what it means for the future of the workforce.

Jason El Koubi: I’m curious about how you became interested in the intersection of all of these exciting topics — technology, business, science, and history. I’ve also got to ask, how does one become a futurist? Byron Reese: I think I was born at a fortuitous time because oftentimes there’s a technology or some happening that defines the whole generation. I just happened to be born when it was this explosion of technology. I got out of university in 1991 and moved to the Bay Area to try to make my fortune, like, I guess, many of the gold rush pioneers before me. I just got into technology there. I didn’t have a technical background. I got into artificial intelligence and had some success with that, and I started getting lots of invitations to give talks. Good speakers give the same speech over and over. I’m a bad speaker because I would always write a different talk, and people would always say, “What do you think about the future of ‘blank’? What is the future of transportation? What’s the future of this? What’s the future of that?”



El Koubi: Your work certainly covers a lot of interesting topics, and we’re really excited to connect, because the theme of this issue of Virginia Economic Review is focused on industries of the future. I’m interested, what emerging technologies do you think have the greatest potential for transformation, whether in society or industry or other areas of life? Reese: There’s obviously computation and artificial intelligence, which is the main thing I write about. There’s robotics — computers are getting machines to think like we do. There are new kinds of materials that are being made and new ways to generate power. There’s nanotechnology, which is how things take on new properties when they’re at the microscopic scale. There’s biotechnology, where we’re learning a lot of the secrets of life itself and how we can harness that. Then there’s blockchain. I’m not that interested in cryptocurrency per se, but I’m very interested in blockchain because it’s a technology where you don’t really have to understand how it works, but it’s useful to know what it does. Blockchain is a technology whereby people can deal directly with each other without having to trust each other, but they can do it confidently. El Koubi: You’ve just sketched out a big list, and I’m wondering if you could put this all into historical perspective. One of your books is called “The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity.” I’m interested

in the title, “The Fourth Age.” There’s an obvious question there: What were the first three ages? And what characteristics make up this fourth age? Reese: Humanity kind of goes along a trajectory, and something really big happens and changes everything. And I think the first one of these is when we got language, which is a technology, and is our singular technology as a species. It allows us to coordinate our actions. We got it at the same time we controlled fire because we were cooking meat, and that allowed us to consume more calories. We grew these big brains and developed language. The second one, in my telling, would be agriculture. It wasn’t agriculture per se, but agriculture made us settle down, and we had cities, and cities are where we got the division of labor. And the division of labor is where all our prosperity comes from because if you specialize and you specialize and you specialize, we’re all better off for it.

on this topic, I only show one graph, and it’s this line. It’s the average world income for the last 2,000 years. I first saw it at the front of Matt Ridley’s book, “The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves.” For 1,750 years, nothing happens. For 1,750 years, the average income of the world didn’t change. And then, about 1750, it turned and shot straight up, and what happened then was the scientific method. We learned this trick of being able to take what we knew and add to it and know more and add to that and add to that and add to that. I think, with these technologies, that line is going to just shoot up as far as the eye can see, because we’re at this point where technology’s really multiplying what we’re able to do. Computers famously double in capability about every two years, and most technologies behave that same way.

The third one was when two technologies happened at the same time — writing and the wheel. We got them both 5,000 years ago. With those two things, you had everything you needed to create a nation-state, because you could promulgate laws and collect taxes and so forth.

What that means is that it took human civilization 10,000 years to make your laptop. But in two years it will be twice as powerful. And then, in two years it’ll be twice as powerful and in two years it’ll be twice as powerful. What happens is you get up to this place where we’re creating 10,000 years of progress every two years.

I think those were the big turning points where technology really changed things. And so, I posit that we’re at this fourth one where these technologies are going to radically transform the world. When I talk

El Koubi: You talk about the relationship between AI and automation in the workplace. What are your thoughts on the ways that automation will reshape the workplace and also the workforce?

What I encourage people to do is look at your day and ask yourself, “Where can I use technology to destroy stuff I’m doing at the bottom that I shouldn’t be doing?” You’re always trying to apply technology to automate parts of your life that are just boring and repetitive. BYRON REESE

Reese: I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the half-life of a job is, and I think it’s about 50 years. I think every 50 years, we lose about half of our jobs. You say, “Wow, we lose half our jobs every 50 years. Why do we generally have full employment? How can that be?” Imagine a bar graph of jobs. On the far left, you have low-pay, low-skill, low-training-required jobs, like an order taker at a fast food restaurant. Then you have all the high-tech, new jobs, like a geneticist. Technology destroys all the jobs down at the bottom, and it creates new ones at the top. When that happens, it isn’t that those people who lost that job become geneticists. Everybody just shifts up one notch. A college professor may become a geneticist. Then a high school biology teacher gets the job at the college. Then the substitute teacher gets hired on full-time at the high school all the way down the line. Technology destroys these highly automatable, low-skill kinds of things and creates these new ones that pay more. What I encourage people to do is look at your day and ask yourself, “Where can I use technology to destroy stuff I’m doing

at the bottom that I shouldn’t be doing? They’re a waste of my time. What am I doing that I could just automate away? What are new things I could create? New opportunities I could create with technology?” You’re always trying to apply technology to automate parts of your life that are just boring and repetitive. The signature thing that I think will separate jobs of the future versus today is that they’re migrating to be more about relationships, which computers cannot do. You had the ATM come out and everyone said, “Well, so much for tellers.” But we have more now, because the teller job becomes kind of a relationship job. “Well, maybe you need a student loan.” Or, “We got this software to do simple contracts.” Does that mean the lawyers lost out? No, they have a relationship. Now they help you with estate planning where you get tax software to automate a bunch of it. But that doesn’t mean the tax people go out of business — their jobs become more relationship-driven. El Koubi: Certainly an optimistic take on the potential of technology. Of course, the same trends are the ones that cause quite a bit of anxiety for folks, including

people in the workforce. I’m wondering, Byron, how would you respond to those fears of automation? I think part of it is what you’ve just shared, but there’s this sort of notion that robots are going to take over many jobs that exist today. Is it basically what you’ve just shared? Or is there more to it? Reese: That’s largely it, other than to say the media doesn’t help. There was this study that came out a few years ago by these guys, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne. And they said, “In 20 years, 47% of jobs will be gone,” or at least that’s how it was reported. People see that, and that’s their livelihood. That is a frightening thing. Then, when you get into it, you see, “No, they said 47% of things people do in their jobs could be all automated,” which is very different. My father sold insurance for 30-something years. His job changed all through that time, but it didn’t mean his job itself went away. There are very few jobs technology can actually destroy. That’s why you hear the same examples over and over. Most of the time, labor productivity is augmented by technology.



I don’t want to minimize a couple of things. One is that depending on your own situation, you may not profit by your increased productivity. If you sell your labor by the hour — let’s say you’re a checker and some new software’s installed that allows you to check out twice as many people in the same amount of time — your pay doesn’t double. Whoever owns the technology generally gets to pocket the increases, and that’s problematic. The second thing that’s kind of problematic is no matter how you tell people, “Look, everybody’s just going to shift up a notch,” it’s still unsettling for the thing that you know how to do, that you make your livelihood by, for it to change. I want to tell people that we keep full employment in this country, even though we’re constantly doing this. I hope that, intellectually, is reassuring to people, but you can’t do that at the expense of not

acknowledging that it’s very disorienting. El Koubi: As we think about talking with policymakers and educational partners that we work with in the economic development space, what sort of skills do you think will be the most valuable in workplaces of the future that are marked by radical technological change?

time to 1987, there’s only one class I could have taken that would be useful to me today: typing. Most of us, what we do for a living, we didn’t learn in school. Even if you learn the basics of a trade, most of your additional knowledge you taught yourself. And that is the human superpower: the ability to teach yourself new things.

Reese: Our education system that we have was designed to make factory workers, and it does that very well. You have a manager, a teacher, who gives you jobs and tells you if you did a good job or not. They grade your performance. And if you do well, you get a promotion to the next grade, a bell will ring and you will be given different work to do.

It isn’t so much to try to think about, “What’s the newest, latest and greatest job? Okay, a geneticist. Well, I can’t learn genetic biology — what am I going to do?” It’s more about taking the skillset that you have and figuring out how to use technology to amplify what you’re able to do, and try to incorporate additional technologies to increase your own productivity.

That isn’t generally, though, where people learn job skills. If I were to go back to high school, if I went back in

We build these better tools that give us more power. Wherever you are in your career, you figure out how to apply

Most of us, what we do for a living, we didn’t learn in school. Even if you learn the basics of a trade, most of your additional knowledge you taught yourself. And that is the human superpower: the ability to teach yourself new things. BYRON REESE

I tell people that if all development in artificial intelligence stopped tomorrow, it will probably take us 30 years to do everything we already know how to do. We just haven’t had time to do it. BYRON REESE

technology. You can make a job by taking a lump of clay and putting time and technology to it and make something else worth more — a vase. Whatever the difference between what that clay was worth and what that vase is worth. That is a wage. That’s how jobs are made. If somebody had gone back 25 years in time to 1996, seen a web browser and said, “Look at this web thing. In 25 years, there’s going to be billions of people using this. What do you think is going to happen to jobs?” If they had been super-smart, they would have said, “I bet the stock brokers are going to have a hard time because people will just trade online. I bet the travel agents are going to have a hard time. I bet the Yellow Pages are going out of business. I bet the newspapers are going to have a hard time because people will get their news online.” And you know what? They would have been right about everything. But what nobody ever would have said is, “Oh, there’s going to be Etsy and eBay and Facebook and Twitter and Airbnb and Uber and Lyft.” And that’s the challenge. It’s easy to see what it’s going to destroy.

None of us had the imagination to see what it’s going to create. The number of things people can do with technology just grows and grows and grows, and we don’t have enough people to do them all. I tell people that if all development in artificial intelligence stopped tomorrow, it will probably take us 30 years to do everything we already know how to do. We just haven’t had time to do it. There’s going to be an ever-increasing shortage of people. It’s a great time to be a human because there’s going to be all these opportunities competing for relatively few people. Because there are things that only people can do. El Koubi: Byron, this has been a fascinating conversation. Just wonderful to talk with you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts today with the Virginia Economic Review podcast. Reese: Thank you for having me.

For the full interview, visit



INDUSTRIES OF THE FUTURE Innovators across the country are developing and exploring ideas with the potential to transform industries as diverse as energy, manufacturing, and transportation. Disruptive technologies are changing the way energy is produced, goods are moved, information is shared, and purchases are made. Virginia’s best-in-class higher education system, strategic location, and openness to new technologies have placed it at the forefront of these efforts. VEDP identified eight industries where disruptive technologies are taking hold: offshore wind, commercial space, unmanned systems, auto tech, 5G, ag tech, data centers, and e-commerce. Read on to learn more about the future these industries are creating — and how Virginia companies and institutions are helping to push these disruptive technologies forward.


Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind site will feature up to 180 14 MW turbines.


The massive scale of those turbines illustrates the opportunity available to companies as the industry expands. Offshore turbines are much larger than their onshore counterparts. Doubling the length of a blade quadruples the wind-catching surface area — and the energy that can be collected.

East Coast Offshore Wind Industry Poised for Takeoff


he global appetite for clean energy has never been higher, with businesses, individuals, and nations working to decrease their carbon emissions. Technological advancements in generating and storing the energy created by clean sources like wind and solar, along with backing from stakeholders all the way up to the White House, have the East Coast of the United States poised to benefit. The global market for offshore wind has grown by an average of 24% each year since 2013, according to analysis from renewable energy consultants BVG Associates LLC. Companies installed more than 5 GW of offshore wind power around the world in 2020,

and more than 300 GW is forecast to be installed by 2030. The Biden administration has called for the U.S. deployment of 30 GW by that date. Several East Coast projects are in various stages of development to help meet those goals. Jeff Tingley, head of strategy and market development at energy consultancy Xodus Group, expects as many as 300 turbines to be commissioned each year by 2027, including up to 180 at Richmondbased Dominion Energy Virginia’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project (CVOW), which will feature a planned 180 14 MW turbines, more than 800 feet tall with 350-foot blades, capable of supplying power for up to 660,000 homes.

These enormous turbines are manufactured in as few pieces as possible to keep them strong and durable, but that also means that turbine blades the length of a football field must be transported in one piece. At these sizes, trucks and trains can’t handle the equipment, so major components must be manufactured near the water and moved by ship. “The bigger the piece, the closer it has to be to the quayside,” Tingley said. This includes turbine blades, the machinery-housing nacelles, tower sections, foundations, and even large spools of cable.

VIRGINIA’S OFFSHORE OPPORTUNITY Virginia is poised to leverage its prime location to lead the way in the U.S. offshore wind industry. An enormous reminder of that is currently under construction in the form of the $500M Charybdis — a ship commissioned by Dominion Energy, Inc., based out of Hampton Roads, and expected to be ready in 2023. The Charybdis can elevate itself out of the water on four legs, transforming into a heavy-duty crane capable of moving the largest, heaviest turbine parts. Danish offshore wind powerhouse Ørsted will charter the Charybdis to help build the Revolution Wind and Sunrise Wind projects, serving Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island. Ørsted partnered with Dominion in its first foray into the offshore wind industry in 2020, building two 600-foot offshore turbines off Virginia Beach as a pilot project — the first turbines deployed in U.S. federal waters. Dominion is getting pieces into position for CVOW, expected to be constructed from 2024–2026.



Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Pilot Project

We have to look at this not as a series of state projects, but an industry that spans the entire East Coast. JEFF TINGLEY Head of Strategy and Market Development, Xodus Group

Experts say a number of factors — including geography, a long maritime history, existing port infrastructure, and government collaboration — give Virginia an ideal foundation for fostering a growing offshore wind industry that serves the entire East Coast of the United States. “We’ve got a lot of great benefits with The Port of Virginia: no overhead restrictions, wide, deep channels, and marine terminals that are available for supporting the supply chain of offshore wind,” said John Larson, director of public policy and economic development at Dominion. Ørsted and Dominion have both agreed to lease land at the Portsmouth Marine Terminal, but there are other large, appealing sites in the area, Tingley said. He singled out Lambert’s Point, across the Elizabeth River from Portsmouth,


and Cape Charles on the Eastern Shore, at the northern mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, as particularly attractive due to surrounding infrastructure — Lambert’s Point is located on 117 acres next to a railyard and convenient to interstate highways, and both sites offer significant amounts of land adjacent to the deep water that’s necessary for large ships, convenient to the open ocean. “There are many ports [elsewhere on the East Coast] that have height restrictions or are too far away,” said Tingley. “Hampton Roads has many of the physical assets necessary to be a significant contributor to the growth of offshore wind.”

GROWTH ACROSS INDUSTRIES Offshore projects may seem expensive at first, but costs are likely to come down as the industry grows. Development

will take many forms, including outside investment or attracting industry-adjacent companies like Rose Holm, a Danish fastener manufacturer that specializes in hardware for offshore wind turbines. Last year, the company announced plans to build its first U.S. factory in Henrico County, near Richmond. Growth also requires investments in the workforce, which are already underway. In addition to existing programs that train workers for maritime operations with skills useful to offshore wind, wind-specific training programs are coming online. One example is the Mid-Atlantic Wind Training Alliance, a partnership among the New College Institute, Centura College, and the Mid-Atlantic Maritime Academy that offers industry certifications and courses certified by the Global Wind

Organisation at its training locations in Hampton Roads and Martinsville. An Xodus study estimates that more than 600 job functions are necessary to build an offshore wind farm. “Right now, we have a nascent offshore wind industry,” Tingley said. “We’re probably 20 to 25 years behind Europe, but we’ll probably catch up in 10. To do that, we have to look at this not as a series of state projects, but an industry that spans the entire East Coast.” That large regional industry could be focused on Virginia, owing in no small part to the Commonwealth’s geography. In addition to the deep channels and lack of overhead obstructions found around Hampton Roads, vessels traveling at 10 knots can reach all East Coast offshore wind lease areas and call areas within 36 hours. New College Institute, 21 Martinsville


“We’re looking to become the manufacturing, assembly, and logistics hub for the East Coast,” said Virginia Department of Energy Chief Deputy Jennifer Palestrant. “We’re going to see this new industry that’s such a wonderful marriage to what we’ve already got.” The fit between Virginia and offshore wind is geographical, but also cultural, leading Palestrant to refer to the Commonwealth as the “epicenter of the U.S. maritime ecosystem.” The Port of Virginia is the third busiest on the East Coast. Virginia is the home of the country’s oldest naval shipyard (Norfolk Naval Shipyard), the world’s largest naval base (Naval Station Norfolk), and the largest U.S. shipbuilder (Newport News Shipbuilding). These institutions have helped shape the infrastructure in the Hampton Roads region, preventing low bridges from being built, and the continued military presence could be a source of workers with transferable skills on the water or on land. Virginia is home to more than 25,000 shipbuilding and ship repair personnel — the largest concentration on the East Coast.

AN EYE ON EFFICIENCY Just as the physical scale of offshore wind dictates aspects of the manufacturing process, scales of time require careful planning. It’s possible that future offshore wind projects will take less time, but those currently under development can expect a decade-long process from planning to plug-in. Over those years of planning, companies must work cooperatively with numerous other interest groups. “A critical part of the success is in stakeholder engagement. How do you engage with fisheries, with job training, with local communities?” Tingley said. “How do you make sure everyone understands the benefits, impact, and timing?”


Navigating the regulatory waters of offshore wind energy can be particularly challenging. In general, new construction on the water is subject to federal law and U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management regulations, while state laws apply on land. A company planning to operate all along the Eastern Seaboard would need to familiarize itself with the rules of multiple states. In 2020, in an effort to streamline some of the regulatory challenges, Virginia entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Maryland and North Carolina. The partnership includes aligning regulations, offering businesses a permitting liaison from all three states, job training opportunities, and stakeholder engagement across state lines. The Virginia Offshore Wind Landing is another example of this spirit of cooperation. This shared office space was created by the Hampton Roads Alliance for organizations involved with offshore wind to network and access industry assets. Founding members include Dominion Energy and Avangrid Renewables, which is developing Vineyard Wind in Massachusetts and Kitty Hawk Offshore in North Carolina. Offshore wind is a long-term investment — for environmental reasons, the long lifespan of a turbine, and the challenges of harnessing a new type of energy. In some cases, offshore wind isn’t just an update of the sources of electricity, but will require changes to — and therefore significant investment in — the infrastructure that distributes it, particularly grid modernization and battery storage. Virginia aims to be at the center of those investments and advancements. “We’re trying to build a completely new industry,” Palestrant said, adding: “Offshore wind is a once-in-amultigenerational opportunity. We need to put all our energy into it.”

Offshore wind is a once-in-amultigenerational opportunity. We need to put all our energy into it. JENNIFER PALESTRANT Chief Deputy, Virginia Department of Energy


Siemens Gamesa to Establish First U.S. Offshore Wind Turbine Blade Facility in Virginia IN OCTOBER, the largest new

renewable energy project in the United States took a step forward when Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) announced it would establish the country’s first offshore wind turbine blade facility in the city of Portsmouth in the Hampton Roads region. Virginia-based Dominion Energy had previously selected Siemens Gamesa as its partner for the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project (CVOW) 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Siemens Gamesa will lease more than 80 acres of the Commonwealth’s Portsmouth Marine Terminal (PMT) and build a facility to produce turbine blades supplying North American offshore wind projects. The facility will create 310 new jobs — 50 of which are CVOW service support jobs — with an investment of $200

million, including more than $80 million in investments for buildings and equipment at PMT. “We at Siemens Gamesa have shown the offshore wind industry the way for over 30 years. Establishing the industry’s first dedicated offshore wind turbine blade facility in the United States proves again that we are leading the offshore revolution,” said Marc Becker, CEO of the Siemens Gamesa Offshore Business Unit. “The U.S. offshore market is a critical part of our overall global strategy, with our presence in Virginia playing a crucial and central role.” Siemens Gamesa Head of Offshore North America Steve Dayney told Virginia Business that the company hopes to supply future offshore wind projects in Virginia and other states.

The announcement positions PMT and the Hampton Roads region as a major wind energy hub. In addition to Siemens Gamesa, Dominion Energy is leasing 70 acres for a staging and loadout site to serve CVOW and Ørsted will occupy 40 acres at PMT to house a turbine handling and staging operation. Support for Siemens Gamesa’s job creation will be provided through the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program, a workforce initiative created by VEDP in partnership with the Virginia Community College System and other higher education partners that accelerates new facility startups through the direct delivery of fully customized recruitment and training services. All program services are provided at no cost to qualified new and expanding companies as an incentive for job creation.



Space Gets a Boost, Returning Earthly Dividends


ould space-related businesses represent a $1 trillion industry by 2040? That’s the question posed by Morgan Stanley analysts in a recent report. It’s hard to say, given any number of hardto-quantify variables associated with space, not the least of which is the awe factor driving a space tourism boom. When “Star Trek” star William Shatner stepped out of Blue Origin’s New Shepard space capsule after landing in Texas in October, he was nearly overcome with emotion. “Just unbelievable,” he said. “To see the blue color whip by, and now you’re staring into blackness.” He described Earth’s atmosphere as the line between life and death. “It would be so important for everybody to have that experience,” he said. It’s an experience that more people than ever can potentially have, thanks to companies working to make space flight accessible to the public.

The industry has already created one of the world’s most valuable private companies in SpaceX, Tesla founder Elon Musk’s space company, which launches satellites and crewed spacecraft for government and private entities. SpaceX completed the first all-nonprofessional private orbital flight in 2021, and the company has begun rolling out space-based broadband service worldwide. Satellite broadband alone could represent 50–70% of the space sector’s growth by 2040, Morgan Stanley asserts, with other major opportunities in the fields of space tourism and ultra-fast package delivery. “Every year, I say, ‘Oh, this is the most exciting time in space history,’” said Peter Beck, CEO of launch provider Rocket Lab, which built its second launch complex on Wallops Island on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. “But every year, it really is.” Rocket Lab went public this year, has analysts issuing “Buy” advice, and is

getting ready to launch a spacecraft to the moon for NASA. The company has launched more than 100 satellites for commercial and government customers in the last three years. Also in 2021, Blue Origin — owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who flew on the company’s first crewed space mission — began flying its first passengers along with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, another suborbital launch provider. Maj. Gen. Ted Mercer, CEO and executive director of Virginia Space — which owns and operates the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at Wallops Island — says the space boom is bringing inspiration, dollars, and wellpaying jobs down to Earth.

NEW MISSIONS, NEW ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES Mercer took over as the head of Virginia Space in August following a run at the Federal Aviation Administration and 32 years in the U.S. Air Force. He sees

Founded in New Zealand, Rocket Lab is one of two orbital launch providers working out of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island.



T H E G L O B A L S PA C E E C O N O M Y ( $ T )













Consumer TV

Mobile Satellite Services

Satellite Launch

Consumer Radio

Earth Observation Services

Non-Satellite Industry

Consumer Broadband

Ground Equipment

Second-Order Impacts

Fixed Satellite Services

Satellite Manufacturing

Source: Morgan Stanley, “Space: Investing in the Final Frontier,” July 24, 2020

MARS as a necessary complement to the more famous East Coast spaceport, Cape Canaveral in Florida. “You have to remember,” he said, “Cape Canaveral is only one hurricane away from losing access to space.”

have outgrown these spaces and the new facility will consolidate the workforce, provide a workshop, and create parts storage, thereby increasing the efficiency of launch and maintenance operations, paving the way for more missions.

Mercer says MARS is actively seeking new launch providers to operate out of Wallops and is planning to break ground on a new, 14,000-sq.-ft. launch team facility. “Right now, we operate out of two buildings that we rent from NASA,” Mercer said. “They’re very old blockhouses that date back a great number of years. As you might imagine, there’s a lot of wear and tear on them.” He says existing operations

Currently, the spaceport hosts two orbital launch providers: Northrop Grumman Space Systems, headquartered in Loudoun County, and Rocket Lab. Northrop Grumman has launched 14 International Space Station resupply missions on its Antares and Minotaur rockets, all from Wallops, since 2013. The company has launched a total of 24 rockets from MARS.


So far, Rocket Lab has launched all of its missions out of its facility in New Zealand — all but one with its reusable, two-stage Electron rocket — but has a pad ready for liftoff at Wallops. All that’s needed is certification of an autonomous flight termination system (AFTS) by NASA. Mercer says the system will provide new capabilities for launch companies that follow Rocket Lab and NASA’s lead in using it. “This is a gamechanging command and control system,” Mercer said. “Commercial users will be able to use the capability on any of our launch ranges to ensure public safety during launch operations.”

Northrop Grumman Space Systems, Accomack County

In contrast to conventional, human-in-the-loop flight termination systems, the AFTS will rely on GPS, inertial guidance, and programming to automatically shut down spacecraft engines if a rocket veers off course and endangers people on the ground. “We’ve been in partnership with NASA since flight two on Electron, developing the autonomous flight termination system,” Beck said. “The autonomous system can activate in milliseconds, where a human in the loop allows for something like three to five seconds. So it’s a far safer system overall.” Mercer says the system is expected to be ready at Wallops by the end of the year, putting Rocket Lab on track for its first launches from the spaceport in 2022.

ADDRESSING ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS With all this new activity comes new responsibilities. Beck says global regulation is needed to manage the growing problem of dead satellites and spent booster stages cluttering up orbital space. “Calling somebody up in another country in another language at 2 a.m. is not a way to avoid collisions,” he said. Launch companies need to take responsibility for their hardware by providing boosters and satellites with the means to deorbit at the end of their useful lives, Beck says. For him, it comes down to respecting the environment — on and off the planet. Shatner’s recent space flight has certainly given him a bigger environmental perspective. In an interview, he cited enhanced environmental consciousness as the reason he felt everyone should experience space. To him, that means seeing just how thin the blue blanket of our atmosphere is firsthand. To countless investors, it might also mean an opportunity to find wealth among the stars.



Unmanned Vehicles Poised for Impact Beyond Package Delivery


nmanned vehicles still seem like advanced technology, but in one form or another, they’ve been making inroads into civilian life for the last 15 years. Once niche technology used mainly for military applications, they’re now integrated into our lives, including use cases that few envisioned when the technology began to enter the mainstream. The unmanned industry had a total market value of $16.5 billion in 2020, and it’s shown on the roads, waterways, and skies, where unmanned vehicles are fulfilling uses as diverse as package delivery, real estate assessments, equipment inspection, photography and videography, public safety, national defense, lifeguarding, and personal transportation. Innovators are drawing technological inspiration from sources as modern as submarines and as natural as seabirds. Companies are refining the technologies that enable those uses and searching for the next use case where an unmanned vehicle can do a particular task more safely and effectively than a person.

IN THE SKIES Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are working in civilian airspace on a variety of useful applications — but not exactly in the way they were presented to the public in the past, when companies as ubiquitous as Amazon, Walmart, and

Blue Vigil’s tether system allows a drone to stay aloft indefinitely and is in use by clients as diverse as the Chesterfield County Police Department (shown here demonstrating the device) and the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.

Virginia-manufactured vehicles pushing the limits of unmanned technology include Huntington Ingalls Industries’ REMUS unmanned underwater vehicle and the Olli driverless shuttle, running on Perrone Robotics technology. Virginia stakeholders are at the forefront of many promising applications of unmanned vehicles, with Wing conducting the first U.S. drone delivery trials in Christiansburg and DroneUp partnering with Walmart for last-mile delivery.


In 2020, Walmart partnered with Virginia Beach-based DroneUp to deliver COVID-19 test kits to residents near selected stores.

7-Eleven were touting the possibility of widespread drone delivery service. Virginia made unmanned history when Wing, the drone delivery unit of Google parent company Alphabet, conducted the country’s first drone delivery trials in Christiansburg in 2019, which highlighted the possibilities of beyond-line-of-sight drone delivery. But with the Federal Aviation Administration still finalizing rules for such services and the industry dealing with questions about public acceptance, density, and air traffic management, the prospect of lightning-quick, omnipresent drone delivery has not yet lived up to expectations. The nuances of drone flight are familiar to Virginia Beach-based DroneUp, which leverages a network of 20,000


affiliated pilots in addition to its own staff. DroneUp essentially follows a drone-as-a-service model, allowing firms large and small to outsource UAV operations and access the company’s inhouse data analysis, training, equipment, and consulting services. “We’re finding that lots of companies in different verticals want to utilize drones, but they’re not exactly sure how,” DroneUp Chief Operating Officer Anthony Vittone said. The biggest retailer in the country took notice. In 2020, Walmart engaged DroneUp to deliver COVID-19 test kits to residences near selected stores. DroneUp sent teams to set up temporary drone operations in Walmart parking lots in Nevada, New York, and Texas, and within a few weeks, the

drones delivered hundreds of kits to homes within a mile of the locations. The partnership was so successful that the retail giant has since invested in DroneUp in a push to establish permanent last-mile drone delivery for a large portion of its product line, announcing the first delivery hubs in northwest Arkansas in November. Many clients are using DroneUp’s expertise to get their own drone operations up and running, but even more are finding it convenient to outsource drone operations while focusing on their core business. Others look to DroneUp to augment existing drone operations. Outside the realm of package delivery, unmanned vehicles are increasingly used for everything from urban

Huntington Ingalls Industries in Newport News produces the Proteus UUV for the U.S. Navy.

planning and inventory management to inspection and emergency services. Beach lifeguard services are starting to use UAVs to augment existing lifesaving procedures, currently using the devices for shark and riptide identification. In the future, UAVs could be used to safely drop flotation devices to distressed swimmers faster than human lifeguards can swim to the scene — Virginia Beach company Hush Aerospace is developing a drone-and-drop system to use on the Commonwealth’s beaches.

Reston-based Blue Vigil solves this problem through powered cables that can keep a drone aloft indefinitely. The company’s system consists of a ground power station that connects to a generator, AC wall power, or a vehicle through a tether. Once connected, powering up the ground station and drone takes about 30 seconds. The company also sells an OEM version of their power tether solution to manufacturers who want to embed the tether technology into a custom platform.

UAVs are also increasingly used to monitor crowds and traffic. But even if you’ve seen a drone in the air above a sporting event, concert, or traffic jam, you may not have realized that it can only stay airborne for as long as its batteries last — usually just a couple of hours.

Blue Vigil’s tether system, manufactured in Roanoke County by Keltech Inc., can work with most drones. It’s already in use by police departments in Virginia and across the country. The NBA’s San Antonio Spurs use the system to power drones that monitor crowds during home games.

“They use a drone with our tether system for crowd control as people arrive and leave the arena,” Blue Vigil CEO Rob Schumann said. “It works really well for them.”

ON (AND BELOW) THE WAVES On and under the water, unmanned vehicles have been widely used across the offshore energy sector for monitoring and maintenance, while other maritime applications include security, mapping, and a wide range of data collection. They’re in widespread use by the U.S. military for applications like intelligence gathering and mine countermeasures, and the Navy and Marine Corps are accelerating rollout of unmanned surface and underwater vessels for applications including cargo movement.



We’re finding that lots of companies in different verticals want to utilize drones, but they’re not exactly sure how. ANTHONY VITTONE Chief Operating Officer, DroneUp

New developments in sensors, inertial navigation, and various other data acquisition technologies are allowing for the expansion of cost-effective hydrographic and bathymetric surveying. With actionable data, in the not-so-distant future, ships will be able to arrive and depart at commercial ports without crews. Currently, most of these autonomous ships move at the pace of current standards, but as the technology advances, so does the potential to increase efficiencies and reduce ship down time. Since the advent of boats, waterways have been the most efficient way of getting cargo where it’s needed. The sticking point has always been the slow speed at which waterborne freight moves. The Flying Ship Company, based in Leesburg in Northern Virginia, plans to overcome that by skimming above the water with semi-autonomous cargo vessels using ground effect. Ground-effect vehicles ride on the dense cushion of air that develops between a wing and the water or a surface when they are close together. Seabirds use the ground effect to skim the water’s surface, barely flapping their wings, for hours at a time, and the Soviet Union tested ground-effect wingships for military transport during the Cold War. Flying Ship is developing two wingship variants for fast, low-cost cargo delivery


to a range of coastal and island locations. The largest hybrid electric-powered craft is currently semi-autonomous, but ultimately planned to be completely autonomous and will have a range of more than 300 miles. Applications will share more commonalities with the air freight market than the traditional maritime market. “We are going to be carrying timecritical, price-sensitive goods,” Flying Ship CEO Bill Peterson said. “High-end retail, fresh foods, perishable items, medical equipment, military equipment — anything that needs to be there relatively quickly.” Unmanned maritime vehicle development isn’t limited to startups. Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) has operated in Hampton Roads since 1886 through one of its divisions, Newport News Shipbuilding, and has built more ships in more ship classes than any other U.S. naval shipbuilder. The Navy is increasingly looking to unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) to take on missions from mine countermeasures to special operations, underwater mapping, and surveillance. In response, HII has acquired numerous UUV companies and is building a new Unmanned Systems Center of Excellence on a 20-acre campus in the city of Hampton. Construction began in 2020 on what will ultimately

be a 155,000-sq.-ft. facility dedicated to production and testing of all types of unmanned systems, including the Boeing-HII Orca extra-large UUV, a 50-ton, long-endurance attack drone capable of performing critical missions for the U.S. Navy. HII is relatively new to the unmanned industry, but has acquired several marine robotics firms in the last several years, including Massachusetts-based Hydroid, known for its series of REMUS Navy and commercial UUVs. Duane Fotheringham, president of unmanned systems at HII’s Technical Solutions division, says that HII’s experience building Navy submarines will help with research and development. “There’s a lot of commonality with putting things into the ocean, understanding that it’s one of the harshest environments on the planet,” he said. “Understanding how to go into the deep sea, how to make vessels safe and reliable for people — or for autonomous systems — applies to both.”

ON THE ROAD Over the past few years, research into unmanned solutions for ground transit has focused on moving goods and people, hampered by cost issues and technical challenges along with more recent issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those obstacles are lessening, buoyed by advances in sensors, light

Perrone Robotics, Albemarle County

detection and ranging, and other technologies that support unmanned development. Those advances, along with reduced costs per unit for sensor and hardware technology, have supported lower prices on unmanned deployment programs. From a military perspective, unmanned ground vehicles’ greatest benefit is reducing the need for humans to be placed in harm’s way. From a civilian aspect, unmanned vehicles provide the promise of partially increasing road safety with the eventual goal of removing humans from behind the wheel. In September 2021, Volvo Autonomous Solutions unveiled its prototype autonomous truck to be produced at the company’s Pulaski County facility, while Torc Robotics in Montgomery County is working with global market-share leader Daimler Trucks to commercialize autonomous trucks through a

partnership Torc CEO Michael Fleming said is the first of its kind. Perrone Robotics in Albemarle County takes a different approach, providing fully autonomous vehicle systems and turn-key autonomous vehicle solutions for geofenced and geolocated areas. The To Navigate You (TONY) system is an autonomous vehicle (AV) retrofit kit that embeds into any vehicle type, allowing transit and transportation customers to easily retrofit existing fleets and reduce deployment costs. It’s currently in use on an Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant, fullsize, zero-emissions electric passenger van called the AV Star, developed by Perrone and Canada-based GreenPower Motor Company. One of the vans is currently in testing in Jacksonville, Fla., where the Jacksonville Transit Authority is aiming to deploy a fleet of AVs by 2023.

Perrone’s latest OEM agreement with Arizona-based Local Motors represents a significant step in full integration of its autonomous system in a vehicle’s initial design and production phase. Local Motors’ 3D-printed, micromanufactured Olli — a low-speed, driverless shuttle intended for getting people around city centers, campuses, and neighborhoods and set to debut in commercial operation in late 2021 — is billed as an environmentally friendly, cost-efficient short-haul transporter. By 2022, the Perrone-Local Motors pairing intends to produce hundreds of the AVs that run on Virginia-developed technology. Virginia companies and researchers are playing a major role in the development of unmanned vehicles across air, land, and sea — and realizing some of the potential that excited retailers and consumers when drones first started appearing in civilian skies.



Volvo Trucks North America’s VNR Electric, manufactured in Pulaski County, went on sale in late 2020.

Electric Trucks, Connected Vehicles Disrupt Auto Industry


echnological advancements, supply chain disruptions, and safety, environmental, and other sociopolitical factors are changing the way people and products move around the country. Manufacturers are leveraging technology, new business models, and infrastructure improvements to chart a future path. Electric vehicles (EV) are comprising a greater share of the consumer market, making up 2.4% of new vehicle registrations in the first six months of 2021, according to Experian — more than double the corresponding percentage from the first half of 2020. Auto manufacturers are looking to apply the same technologies and concepts to the commercial market. Research and Markets projects a compound annual growth rate of nearly 150% for the electric truck market between 2020 and 2026, driven by efficiency and a global focus on reducing emissions, while the electric bus market is projected to grow by nearly 50% during the same period. Meanwhile, companies are working constantly to improve communication between vehicle sensors and cloud databases to enhance safety and the driving experience — and Virginia companies and organizations are at the forefront of that research. Here’s how innovators are creating the cars, trucks, and roads of the future.

BUILDING ELECTRIC COMMERCIAL TRUCKS Volvo Trucks North America’s VNR Electric went on sale in late 2020.

It’s among the first of a variety of electrically powered commercial trucks seeking to displace diesel trucks in the regional delivery market — and it’s built at Volvo’s manufacturing plant in Pulaski County in the New River Valley. The VNR is a Class 8 vehicle, the kind of semi truck you see hauling inventory to retailers, restaurants, and warehouses. The elements of these supply chains typically operate within a 100–300-mile area, potentially matching the range of electric trucks. The VNR Electric has a maximum 150-mile range, although in practice, the maximum distance it will go between charges will vary based on factors including payload, terrain, and weather. Recharging times vary based on the type of charger used. As a commercial truck, the VNR Electric has higher power needs than an electric car. It uses direct-current charging rather than the more familiar alternating-current chargers used to charge consumer EVs. Since there are few such chargers in operation, VNR Electric operators typically need to have them at their own locations, adding the cost of installing such infrastructure to the cost of the truck. Volvo has taken pains to simplify the transition between diesel trucks and the VNR Electric. “We don’t want to make anything radically different in terms of what drivers are used to,” said Brett Pope, director of electric vehicles for Volvo Trucks North America. “They’ll find

very similar characteristics to the trucks of today.” Those similarities begin with power output. The VNR Electric’s two electric motors produce 370 kilowatts, or about 450 horsepower, a common figure for diesel trucks. The 4,051 foot-pounds of torque they produce is substantially more than most diesels, although it’s offset somewhat by the VNR’s heavier weight (about 4,000 pounds more than a comparable diesel). That torque makes the driving experience a bit “more peppy” than current trucks, as Pope puts it. Rather than a 10- or 12-speed transmission, the VNR Electric needs only an automatically shifted low- and high-gear transmission. “It shifts into second gear somewhere around 20–24 mph, and that’s it,” Pope says. “You don’t have that rocking that exists in the current [trucks]. The engine noise in the cab goes away, the vibration settles down.” Volvo has also developed a simulation tool to analyze routes and loading patterns to determine a customer’s individual needs. The tool allows the company to advise customers on purchase and lease options and set expectations for battery costs. For now, electric trucks’ market share depends on individual customers’ needs, location, and motivations. But production of the VNR Electric has ramped up in Pulaski County, and the trucks are already on the road with several customers in California and New York.

CONVERTING BIG RIGS TO NEW POWERPLANTS Trova Commercial Vehicles is in its infancy. But the company’s plan to enter the heavy-duty truck sector by converting existing trucks from diesel to electric power using its proprietary modular chassis — like Volvo’s electric trucks,



Volvo Trucks North America, Pulaski County

manufactured in Pulaski County — could be a speedy way into the OEM market. There are about 4.6 million diesel-powered Class 7/8 trucks (26,000–33,000 pounds gross weight) operating in the United States, with an average age of eight years. The Biden administration has expressed a goal of significantly reducing America’s carbon dioxide emissions by the 2030s, a target that will require greater emphasis on power generation and static emissions, rather than cars and trucks, which account for 12–15% of overall CO2 output.

meet emissions goals. Trova estimates there are 400,000 trucks in the United States that would benefit on cost efficiency (without subsidies) and emissions grounds from a driveline transplant to electric. The process of converting a heavy-duty truck to electric (or other alternative power) begins with Trova’s modular chassis. The company takes an existing truck and removes its cab body, steering architecture, hydraulics, and other peripherals, and transfers them to its own modular chassis.

Nonetheless, transportation garners most of the public attention. “If you ever want to reach the lofty emissions goals out there, whether by 2030 or 2035, every OEM must already have a very solid zero-emission pipeline in place,” said Trova founder and CEO Patrick Collignon, a former Volvo Trucks North and South America COO.

Conventional diesel truck chassis are not designed for electric drivetrains and, among other adaptations, typically require placing batteries outside the chassis rails, where they’re more vulnerable to damage from accidents, road debris, or the environment. Trova’s modular chassis places the batteries inside the frame rails. Collignon estimates that the transplant can be done in 48 hours.

Complicating that goal is the fact that the heavy truck market is a mature one. With slow growth and a relatively old trucking fleet, selling new alternatively powered trucks may not be enough to

Trova expects to debut its full conversion prototype in 2022. The company is still building its first modular chassis, with a customer lined up, and has begun a second.


The first application for its converted electric trucks will be in the regional haul (200-mile range) market, where heavy-duty box trucks and day cabs dominate, while Trova and other companies continue to work on a battery that will enable long-range electric trucking. “This is as exciting as it will get in my lifetime,” Collignon said. “Let’s make sure we secure this new industry here — that Virginia is not going to be looking out the window as the train leaves the station.”

CONNECTING VEHICLES TO IMPROVE SAFETY While electric vehicles tantalize with the possibility of cleaner power, other disruptive automotive technologies are delving into the data that various auto parts and components produce the entire time a vehicle is powered up. Modern cars and trucks are constructed from parts from numerous suppliers, each with their own proprietary hardware and software components that all produce data in different formats. The challenges of accessing and interacting with this data limit its utility in making improvements to the driving experience.


Amazon Web Services (AWS), with multiple offices and data centers in Northern Virginia, is one of the companies trying to improve the way users interact with data from connected vehicles. Late last year, AWS announced an agreement with BlackBerry QNX to develop BlackBerry IVY, a cloudconnected software platform that will allow auto manufacturers to more effectively collect and analyze that data. Then-AWS CEO Andy Jassy, now CEO of Amazon, said the technology would enable manufacturers to “transform vehicles from fixed pieces of technology into systems that can grow and adapt with a user’s needs and preferences.” The AWS/BlackBerry partnership is just one example of major companies partnering to push connected-vehicle technology forward. General Motors is working with Microsoft to accelerate the commercialization of unmanned vehicles, while Volkswagen, with its U.S. headquarters in Fairfax County, and Bosch are using Microsoft Azure to build cloud-based vehicle platforms.

SAFER WORK ZONES FOR DRIVERS AND WORKERS Just some of the research into connected-vehicle applications involves what’s happening inside the vehicle. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) is developing numerous technologies in partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), including a mapping application, active safety vests, and autonomous attentuator vehicles to improve work-zone safety for drivers and road workers alike. “We have a philosophy that automated vehicles and connected vehicles will both be safer if they’re communicating with each other and with the infrastructure,” said Mike Mollenhauer, director of VTTI’s Division of Technology Implementation. The first step is a tablet-based mapping application called “Work Zone Builder,”

Trova Commercial Vehicles, Pulaski County

which allows VDOT managers to use a tablet to designate an area on a map showing exactly where upcoming road work will be and what type of work will be done. The app then imports all relevant rules from a work-area protection manual to determine optimal placement of signs, traffic cones, and other features, and populates the map with these details to guide crews in setting up the work zone. That data is also packaged into a format that can be retrieved by a connected vehicle to warn drivers about upcoming hazards and reduced speed limits. VTTI is also developing a “Smart Work Zone System” to protect workers by communicating data on individual workers’ locations to vehicles approaching a work zone. Workers wear a vest with an integrated GPSenabled radio that connects to a mesh network, pinpointing the workers in the zone down to 20 centimeters of accuracy. The communication goes both ways — the vests are equipped with numerous systems to alert workers to approaching vehicles, with reminders given in visual (LED lights), aural

(shoulder-mounted speakers), and haptic (vibrating pulses) form. Individual workers are not the only crew in danger in a work zone. Drivers of the slow-paced truck-mounted attentuator vehicles that typically follow and protect workers and vehicles in moving work zones are at risk, too. VTTI is working on getting drivers out of those vehicles entirely through an autonomous truck-mounted attentuator (ATMA) vehicle that automatically convoys with the work vehicles it follows at a preset distance. The system has demonstrated following consistency to within 20 centimeters of a lead vehicle, and VTTI is preparing to take an ATMA prototype onto the roads for testing in early 2022. VTTI is tackling the development and testing of these systems in stages, starting with less complex, limited-access highway environments. The first steps, while incremental, have the potential to make crucial road improvements safer for drivers and workers alike. “If we can even get it out and operating in a limited domain, that’s a step forward,” Mollenhauer said.


National Landing in Northern Virginia, as shown in this rendering, is home to a 5G-powered smart city developed by JBG SMITH Properties, Inc., using dark fiber provided by Arlington County.


Exploring the Practical and the Fantastical in


cross the wireless industry, 5G — the fifth-generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks, meant to deliver higher data speeds, lower latency, more reliability, and higher capacity — has been not just the next big thing, but a family of next big things. On smartphones, faster, higher-capacity service could let us spend less time waiting for new apps to download. In homes, “fixed wireless” 5G connections could give residents more choice in broadband providers. And in offices, factories, streets, and other non-traditional settings for wireless connectivity, 5G’s potential to connect not just people, but devices, could rewrite how industry and infrastructure function. The open-ended nature of that potential has led to many 5G forecasts that might as well have come sprinkled with fairy dust — even as early hype about 5G putting self-driving cars in people’s driveways or empowering robot surgery from hundreds of miles away has yet to pan out. But while previous wireless standards were instrumental in paving the way for consumer breakthroughs like messaging and video chat, 5G is poised to make profound differences in people’s lives. Across Virginia, developers, researchers, and entrepreneurs are finding innovative ways to use this next generation of wireless broadband.



At the Virginia International Gateway container terminal in Portsmouth, a lack of technology is not the problem. Instead, the potential issue is people behind steering wheels. “There’s been a growing concern about whether there’s going to be enough trucking available over the next five to 10 years,” said Rich Ceci, senior vice president of technology and projects at Virginia International Terminals, LLC, a subsidiary of the Virginia Port Authority. The port approached the U.S. Department of Transportation about setting up a pilot program to experiment with autonomous trucks, ultimately receiving $4 million to research those possibilities. The program is set to run for four years, but one key early step won’t require waiting for advances in autonomous truck operation. Instead, the port aims to use 5G to locate human-operated trucks far more precisely — data that’s already useful for routing humancontrolled trucks within the port and that becomes essential once those trucks are unmanned. The port currently uses differential GPS — the satellite-navigation system augmented by local base stations — to determine the position of vehicles down

to 10 inches. The hardware required for that is aging, and using 5G signals to calculate location offers the possibility of much more accurate location. It helps that the port already has the infrastructure to support cell sites for a dense 5G network using millimeter-wave signals — the fastest variety of 5G, but also the variety with the shortest range. The light poles in the facility are a 5G-ideal 600 feet apart, while the port has over 50 miles of fiber on the property. “We’re probably the only terminal on the East Coast that can do this project,” Ceci said. “The other terminals just don’t have the technology to interface with the truck like that.” That should leave the port well situated for increasingly advanced 5G developments, eventually including helping trucks navigate its premises autonomously. That, in turn, could pave the way for safe deployment of self-driving trucks in defined places and times — a simpler problem to solve than training a car to drive itself on every street, in all conditions. Ceci suggested one scenario of automated delivery by caravans of trucks on highways: “Imagine an autonomous vehicle train that starts at night when the traffic lets down and runs all night.”



Broadcasting Media delivery Online gaming

Enhanced Mobile Broadband

Extreme data rates Large data volumes Low latency (best effort)

Actuators Sensors Trackers Wearables


Augmented reality Mobile robots Motion control Remote control

Massive Machine-Type Communication

Ultra-Reliable, Low-Latency Communication

Low-cost devices Extreme coverage Long device battery life

High reliability Ultra-low latency High availability

Source: Afif Osseiran et al., “5G Wireless Access: An Overview,” Ericsson, 2020

A SMART CITY NEAR DATA CENTER ALLEY Even before Amazon announced plans to build its HQ2 project in the neighborhood now branded as National Landing, the leading developer in Crystal City was planning a major connectivity upgrade to take advantage of a non-obvious resource: fiber laid underground years ago for Arlington County’s government. “There was already fiber in the ground,” said Evan Regan-Levine, executive vice president for strategic innovation and development at JBG SMITH Properties, Inc. (JBGS). “We could definitely ensure massive coverage.”


The county government had deployed that fiber both to connect offices and schools and as a bit of future-proofing, leaving capacity — both fiber JBGS could lease and space left open in the original conduit for additional fiber. Regan-Levine estimated that this saved the company a couple of years of work.

“We’re not intrinsically technologists,” Regan-Levine said. “But we know how to make enabling investments that will benefit our customers and deliver competitive, cutting-edge products for them. National Landing will be the prototype for how cities will look in the future.”

JBGS also did something unusual for any development firm: It bought its own spectrum, making a $25 million purchase of seven blocks of 5G-ready Citizens Broadband Radio Service spectrum in 2020 at an auction run by the Federal Communications Commission. In July of 2021, it signed up AT&T as its smart-city partner.

The first output of this effort will be high-speed millimeter-wave 5G running up and down National Landing. After that will come two compact data centers that JBGS’s commercial and institutional tenants can use to host applications that they want to make available throughout the neighborhood.


Professor Duminda Wijesekera, left, and George Mason University researchers are studying ways to use 5G to measure and communicate road conditions.

“Whatever high-end application you want to do, you can put it in this center,” Regan-Levine said. “That lets you access it from any of your buildings.” In the short term, that means bandwidth for applications including computer vision, augmented reality, and virtual reality; looking at the longer term, companies working on critical U.S. Department of Defense projects could benefit from the extra computing power. The fiber underlying this digital infrastructure also allows some of the fastest possible access to the vast arrays of data centers to the west in Loudoun and Prince William counties.

SPREADING STREET SMARTS Cars have become increasingly smart, but they’re still not good at sharing those smarts. Duminda Wijesekera,

a professor of computer science at George Mason University’s Volgenau School of Engineering, is working on ways to let more drivers — and, someday, autonomous vehicles — learn from others’ road experience.

having enough vehicles share road data with existing roadside terminals. They would then leverage 5G’s mobile edge-computing capabilities to analyze that data, derive a ground truth, and communicate that to other road users through digital road signs.

“Look at the wealth of information inside the automated braking systems controller. It knows if one side of the road is slipping,” he said, referring to the systems that have been standard on cars for decades. “If every car translated this, everybody else would have immense capability to avoid slipping and sliding.”

Wijesekera noted that this architecture would lend itself to early adoption in fleet use cases, such as buses, police cars, and even delivery robots. He also emphasized how the system should work on mid-band frequencies, not just the fast (but scarce) millimeter-wave frequencies so often highlighted in 5G hype.

But the system Wijesekera and his colleagues are working on doesn’t assume that every vehicle will have the ability to share its sense of the road via 5G. Instead, they envision

It’s yet another example of treating 5G as a gear in a machine, not a goal in itself. As Wijesekera put it, “Just because you have 5G doesn’t solve a lot of problems.”


In addition to its indoor micro-farm system, Richmond-based Babylon Micro-Farms sells a cloud-based farm management platform.


Agricultural Innovation Helps ControlledEnvironment Farms Scale Up (and Up, and Up)


onsumers’ increasing demand for safe, sustainable, locally grown food is driving interest and investment in controlled-environment agriculture (CEA). While much of the production in controlled-environment food production is focused on lettuce, leafy greens, tomatoes, and cucumbers, an increasing number of companies are looking at additional crops that can be grown in these production systems. Research from KD Market Insights projects the global CEA market to grow from $75 million in 2020 to an estimated $172 million in 2025, registering a compound annual growth rate of 18.7% during that time — and with the world’s population projected to grow to almost 10 billion by 2050, the global demand for food will continue to rise. The majority of CEA food production is still done in greenhouses, but an increasing amount of food crops are being grown in vertically stacked layers in indoor vertical farms. While greenhouses have the benefit of growing with natural sunlight, indoor vertical farms have the ability to deliver the exact environmental conditions required by specific plants, including the optimum temperature, humidity, and light levels — and allow producers to multiply their crop outputs significantly

without expanding their physical footprint. CEA operations can produce more food using fewer resources while reducing dependency on arable land. In addition to the increased output, indoor agriculture like vertical farming reduces variance based on climate and pest issues. CEA operations generally require less water, less fertilizer, and markedly less pesticides than conventional agriculture. Producers can grow crops year-round instead of waiting for the optimal growing season and work outside of traditional geographic constraints, allowing a wide variety of fresh produce to be grown close to distributors and customers — more than half of whom currently live in urban areas, a number expected to grow to 68% by 2050.

FROM PRINTERS TO PRODUCE For years, vertical farming was a niche industry, with high energy costs preventing the practice from taking hold. That changed with the widespread availability of cost-effective LED lighting, leading to entirely new focus areas for some companies. DASCOM Americas in Augusta County, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-based company DASCOM, was initially focused on business printing.

As the company expanded into LED lighting and began exhibiting its products at major shows, it became apparent that lighting systems for plant production, initially a small part of its lighting product line, represented a very large, interesting growth opportunity. While many inquiries at trade shows were focused on the lighting systems’ potential to aid in the burgeoning cannabis market, companies saw the potential for the systems to increase production of food crops. “Attendees would stop and comment about the lights, but the majority were just as interested in the racking system to which the lights were attached,” said Ken Bryant, director of marketing at DASCOM Americas. “We came back from the show and talked with our engineers and product development team. We told them we have something here much bigger than just grow lights. We have a chance to do something really special with lasting impact across a broad spectrum that won’t just change our company, but has real potential to change the world.”

GOING BEYOND TRADITIONAL FARMING Today, DASCOM Americas manufactures complete production systems for CEA farms, from racking to irrigation and fertilization to the trays where the plants grow. The company works with producers to build systems customized to facility spaces and the desired end product, which the company calls the HYVE system (short for “Hydroponic Vertical”). “We have inquiries from people interested in growing 1,100 tons of lettuce per month who want us to design them a system to do that,” said Dr. Paul Edmondson, chief scientist and researcher at DASCOM Americas. “Someone else may call who has a building with these particular specs and wants to see how many of our production racks can be installed in a particular



We have a chance to do something really special with lasting impact across a broad spectrum that won’t just change our company, but has real potential to change the world. KEN BRYANT Director of Marketing, DASCOM Americas

Babylon Micro-Farms, Richmond

space. We have the ability to meet these customers’ different needs and customize the production systems for them.” Bryant said in the short time that the HYVE systems have been marketed, he has been most impressed with the amount of value the systems have provided people at many different levels. “Looking at this from the standpoint of economic development and the disruptive nature of what we are doing, this is a positive disruptor,” Bryant said. “We have the opportunity to give consumers healthy, sustainable, fresh food choices. We can give farmers the opportunity not to displace traditional farming, but to give them a means and a way to make a living year-round.”


SIMPLIFYING HYDROPONIC FOOD PRODUCTION Alexander Olesen and Graham Smith, founders of Richmond-headquartered Babylon Micro-Farms, met as students at the University of Virginia. While there, the two developed a self-contained, hydroponic vertical farm system to produce food crops. The inspiration for their system design was to enable foodinsecure refugees in the Middle East an opportunity to produce their own food. The indoor micro-farm system Olesen and Smith designed is now being used by a variety of organizations and companies — including food service businesses, schools, senior living facilities, and hospitals — to grow food crops, including lettuce, leafy greens, herbs, and edible flowers.

While the agriculture industry was being transformed by the advance of LED lighting, Babylon made other key technological breakthroughs. One major reason Olesen and Smith founded the company was to create a cloudbased management platform for hydroponic farms. They then combined the company’s services into an all-inclusive farm system. “Our core business is a remote management platform that is designed to make sustainable agriculture accessible to new markets simply and efficiently,” Olesen said. “Since we do everything through the cloud, there is no need to look to expand our system manufacturing beyond Virginia.”

DEVELOPING FUTURE CEA INNOVATIONS Michael Schwarz, associate director of Virginia Tech’s Controlled Environmental Agriculture Innovation Center (CEA-IC), said the university has been reaching out to companies looking to start or expand controlledenvironment businesses to get their thoughts on what the Virginia agriculture industry needed to do to succeed and grow. The response — what Schwarz called “a resounding push for new technologies” — inspired Virginia Tech to create the Center for Advanced Innovations in Agriculture (CAIA), the parent organization to the CEA-IC. Schwarz and his team conduct research in topics vital to indoor farming, including hydroponics, aquaponics, and aquaculture and work closely with other Virginia research institutions, including the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) in Danville.

Shenandoah Valley-based DASCOM Americas works with producers to customize its HYVE lighting system for vertical farms.

David Rosenberg, founder and CEO of New Jersey-based AeroFarms, cited IALR as a major reason why his company chose to build its largest indoor vertical farm to date in Cane Creek Centre, an industrial park jointly owned by the city of Danville and Pittsylvania County in Southern Virginia. The facility will help AeroFarms fulfill its production partnerships with major retailers like Amazon Fresh, Ahold Delhaize, Walmart, and Whole Foods Market, while the location continues to reinforce its commercial proven history to grow large crop volumes in small, urban footprints. “Locating in the Danville area specifically highlights how our innovative indoor growing approach works in both rural and urban environments, and ultimately meets the increased consumer demand for safely grown, great-tasting, local produce that can be available all year round,” Rosenberg said.

The Center for Advanced Innovations in Agriculture at Virginia Tech researches topics important to indoor farming, including aquaponics, where nutrient-rich water from aquaculture is used to fertilize 45 crops. hydroponically grown

RagingWire operates four data centers in Loudoun County. More than half of new data center construction in the United States is in 46 Northern Virginia, according to CBRE research.

Data Centers Under Pressure to Meet Post-Pandemic Technology Needs


fter a year of focusing on operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, data center investments are on the rise, with an eye on expanding capacity to meet pandemic-influenced changes in consumer behavior. Gartner research indicates that global spending on data center systems is expected to reach $237 billion in 2021, representing an increase of nearly 8% year-over-year. Financial, technology, cloud, social media, e-commerce, and healthcare companies have driven most of this demand, which helped drive an increase from 611 MW to 681 MW of capacity in new U.S. data center construction in the first half of 2021.

enhanced efficiencies to increase capacity and reduce costs. According to Tim Hughes, vice president of strategy at digital infrastructure provider Stack Infrastructure, new data center construction and improvements to existing data centers are focused on:

“The pandemic accelerated the pace at which businesses, governments, and individuals are pursuing all-digital solutions, transitioning to online platforms, and migrating to secure cloud services,” said Josh Levi, president of the Leesburg-based Data Center Coalition.

◾ Creating a safer workplace

Recent advancements in the data center industry have come from refinement of best practices and

◾ Increased efficiency of mechanical and cooling systems ◾ Increased efficiency of servers ◾ Meeting aggressive goals, including a continued push for greater access to green energy ◾ Green construction methods

One of the biggest operational concerns for data centers is maintaining temperature as capacity, new equipment, and rack densities are increased, all while trying to stay in the same footprint. Providers are focused on developing cooling technologies that go beyond standard air conditioning, including air-cooled chillers, evaporative cooling, and in-row cooling.

That imperative has led to some novel solutions. Microsoft has tested the use of ocean water to cool data center servers placed on the bottom of the ocean. In 2020, after two years of submerged operation, the company announced that the servers were more reliable than those on land and that it would move ahead with advanced testing. The data center industry is a leader in commitment to efficient energy use, procurement of renewable energy, and water conservation. Evolving best practices — and changes to the monitoring of energy consumption using Internet of Things technologies, artificial intelligence (AI), and predictive maintenance — can optimize the efficient use of natural resources. Google’s use of AI, for example, has reduced its data center cooling costs by up to 40%. Data center efficiencies can also be improved through automation — a single software administrator can manage thousands of servers. Increased training, process improvements, and the introduction of robotics have allowed critical facility operations staff to manage ever larger data center deployments.




Northern Virginia

290.5 13

Silicon Valley

Dallas/Fort Worth

New York Tri-State

85.3 3.7

H1 2021 Net Absorption Under Construction

23.5 6 38.1 20


29.5 13.4


37.2 15


23.5 Source: CBRE Research, CBRE Data Center Solutions, H1 2021

CHANGING CONSTRUCTION TRENDS Increased distance learning, remote work and collaboration, telehealth, e-commerce, gaming, and streaming services are among the factors that have driven an increase in demand for data center infrastructure and storage capacity during the pandemic. In response, new data centers are being built larger, taller, and denser to provide increased capacity. Another key driver, which is projected to grow exponentially over the next several years, is the deployment of 5G, which will drive the construction of smaller “edge-computing” data center facilities that are located closer to end users to enable faster flow of data. “As 5G deployment increases, the demand for bandwidth and decreased


latency of 5G applications will surge, creating massive capacity needs,” Hughes said. “To meet these demands, there will be construction growth of large core data centers, as well as select edge data centers.” Data centers that already operate on 4G infrastructure can still handle 5G data, but must build new transmission infrastructure to adapt their systems for 5G frequencies. 5G will also require a massive amount of new fiber deployment.

data center construction in the U.S. is in Northern Virginia, driven mostly by an ever-growing demand for cloud services. Hughes calls Virginia “the largest cloud market in the world,” and CBRE research indicates an uptick in speculative land acquisition and construction to help fulfill customer needs.


New and existing data centers, both inside and outside the Commonwealth, will continue to innovate and adjust operations and procedures to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission, while best practices that changed due to the pandemic can drive efficiency in new construction.

Virginia handles about 70% of the world’s daily internet traffic through its network of data centers — and that doesn’t appear to be changing. According to CBRE’s 2021 North American Data Trends Report, more than half of new

“Constructing data centers during the pandemic created a corporate plyometric effect partly due to two factors — heightened safety requirements for COVID-19 and


Post-pandemic planning must include deeper conversations around cloud utilization and balance, infrastructure efficiency, and how to support a far more distributed workforce. BILL KLEYMAN Executive Vice President of Digital Solutions, Switch

increased customer demand,” Hughes said. “We honed our skills and focused on best practices, and learned how to make them safer and build them faster. To maximize speed of delivery, we pushed for prefabrication, which controls quality and reduces construction time and costs. Most new buildings were constructed with expansion in mind, leveraging flexibility and modularity.” Bill Kleyman, executive vice president of digital solutions at Switch, a data center company, emphasizes that this is a perfect opportunity for leaders in the digital infrastructure space to embrace new solutions and new approaches to the market. “Some are looking into robotics and automation, while others are investing even more into security or looking into more effective ways to manage critical infrastructure pieces remotely,” he said. “The big point here is that data centers are a vital part of our connected society. Post-pandemic planning must include deeper conversations around cloud utilization and balance, infrastructure efficiency, and how to support a far more distributed workforce.”

Educational partners like the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in South Boston are training students to work in the data centers of tomorrow.



Increases in e-commerce activity buoyed by the COVID-19 pandemic have entities across the supply chain working to increase efficiencies and meet the demand for same-day delivery.

Integration and Innovation Fuel the Future of E-Commerce


-commerce became the lifeblood of retailers and business-to-business (B2B) suppliers in 2020, yet the innovation that grew out of this need has disrupted industry norms forever. Research from the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and McKinsey & Co. projects that e-commerce will reach 25% to 40% of sales across categories even after the COVID-19 pandemic abates. Two-thirds of respondents surveyed for the groups’ 2021 “Retail Speaks” report cited the growth of omnichannel and digital shopping as the most significant trends affecting the industry, as well as the greatest challenge. Part of this challenge lies in the speed at which these trends, once considered to be on a multiyear trajectory, have accelerated. As the RILA/McKinsey report notes, e-commerce volumes grew as much in the first quarter of 2020 as in the previous ten years. Retailers and supply chain infrastructure both must adapt — not only to meet the strong influx of e-commerce demand, but to grow in a future where omnichannel experiences are the norm and same-day delivery is an expectation.

INTEGRATING SALES CHANNELS Retailers have been rebuilding the shopping experience since Amazon first came on the scene, but it’s the B2B e-commerce sector that has really exploded. In 2019, global B2B e-commerce spending reached $12.2 trillion, six times the size of the business-to-customer (B2C) market, reports Digital Commerce 360 in its “Key Findings from the 2021 U.S. B2B Ecommerce Market Report.” However, the pandemic made a rich end-to-end e-commerce experience critical. As U.S. B2B sales fell 2.6% in 2020 compared to the prior year, B2B e-commerce sales grew by 10% or more in some sectors. As the report notes, the volume of B2B sales in an industry came down to how efficiently B2B buyers and sellers were able to pivot to online solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic. “B2B buyers are mandating their suppliers to integrate with their e-procurement system to provide punchout catalog capability from their commerce system and sales order automation, such as electronic purchase order and invoice routing, so the entire procure-to-pay process is online, streamlined, and automated. Automation has really been emphasized over this past year with COVID,” said Kari Cress, vice president, marketing and partner success for Albemarle County-based PunchOut2Go, a platform-as-a-service company that specializes in connecting commerce business platforms with e-procurement spend management and enterprise resource planning applications.



[Small businesses] might have a simple e-commerce system, but they don’t have the ability to integrate and do business the way their customers want to. B2B buyers want the simplicity of e-commerce and the efficiency of automated procurement. KARI CRESS Vice President, Marketing and Partner Success, PunchOut2Go

The company’s name comes from punchout catalogs and websites, a method for corporate purchasing that allows users within a company to shop a supplier’s website from within their own purchasing procurement system. They’re one of many novel solutions emerging to meet buyers’ unique needs. In B2B procurement — where multiple decision makers may be involved, and there’s an expectation for negotiated pricing and personalized terms — the online purchasing experience hasn’t always been as smooth as with B2C transactions. Some smaller businesses, Cress said, “might have a simple e-commerce system, but they don’t have the ability to integrate and do business the way their customers want to. B2B buyers want the simplicity of e-commerce and the efficiency of automated procurement.” PunchOut2Go is working to change that by reducing the friction between B2B buyers and sellers in the exchange of procurement and commerce data while maintaining strong back-end management support. But a smooth


ordering experience is just the start of an e-commerce transaction, and the rest of the supply chain is also adjusting to the COVID reality.

REDEFINING FULFILLMENT CENTERS The explosion of digital orders has translated to new expectations around how goods reach their destination. “There’s a shift now, as many companies are moving from a highly concentrated West Coast port strategy to one that’s more balanced and bringing merchandise over to the East Coast,” said Tom Capozzi, chief sales and marketing officer at Virginia International Terminals, LLC, a subsidiary of the Virginia Port Authority (VPA). From January through August 2021, VPA saw a 31% increase in business that it was largely able to handle, due in part to recent major expansions at VPA facilities that have increased the port network’s total processing capability up to 4 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) each year. “While a lot of other major North American gateways are really choking

on the volume of business that they’re receiving, we’re handling it very well, and that’s really starting to be recognized in the marketplace,” Capozzi said. However, it’s no longer enough to simply add new capacity. E-commerce businesses striving to achieve same-day delivery are looking for infrastructure that helps them move goods more efficiently. This is where data becomes critical. To this end, innovators like The Port of Virginia are providing greater visibility into shipment status to speed container throughput. Through electronic data interchange and application programming interface channels, the port provides data interchange options and visibility to importers to track, trace, and obtain status on their containers, as well as metrics such as truck turn times and rail dwell. Once containers arrive onsite, VPA has adopted new strategies for distributing containers to speed the transition of cargo from ship to destination.


The Port of Virginia is using shipment data to optimize its workflows and speed the movement of cargo from ship to destination.

“Our semi-automated operation allows us to effectively distribute containers throughout different stacks so when their trucks come in to pick them up, they’re not all concentrated in one stack. It allows for better flow,” Capozzi said. This data-based insight will become even more important as VPA adapts its footprint to match new delivery strategies.

AMAZON EXPLORES CROSSDOCKING POSSIBILITIES Like many companies, Amazon is taking an approach that balances a range of distribution strategies. The company, which is in the process of building and staffing its HQ2 in Arlington, has more than 10 fulfillment and sortation centers and delivery stations across the state, with construction for additional robotics fulfillment centers underway in Henrico County and Suffolk. The company has also constructed a cross-docking processing center in Chesapeake to open in late 2021 and recently announced

a new cross-dock fulfillment center to be built in Stafford County. This burst of new construction will add several thousand new jobs to the company’s existing workforce of more than 27,000 employees across the Commonwealth, with warehouse workers acting in tandem with automation solutions. “Our three principles — lower prices, wider selection, and enhanced customer experience — will not scale up by manual labor only,” Tye Brady, Amazon Robotics chief technologist, said in a release. “They keep accelerating and growing only if we augment and supplement human intelligence with machine intelligence.” Just as this combination of human- and robot-powered inventory management shaves time off the product journey, so does a multi-tiered approach to warehousing. Typically, Amazon workers move packages from a fulfillment and sorting center to a delivery station, where they are loaded

into delivery vehicles and delivered to customers. Now, cross-dock solutions, where containers are stripped immediately and then moved into trucks for domestic distribution, help streamline the flow of goods through the supply chain and can limit, or even eliminate, time spent in the warehouse while accommodating a growing volume of foreign goods. However, this approach requires a different type of building. “They’re just moving the product out of one box and into another box and it’s on its way. That type of building needs to be very close to the marine terminals and it requires a lot of parking, so it’s a different sort of model than has been in demand in the past,” Capozzi said. It’s out-of-the-box thinking in the most literal sense, as shippers, distributors, and transportation partners reimagine the traditional supply chain to create an entirely new retail and procurement experience.


from the to the

Shore Stars

A Conversation With Ted Mercer Maj. Gen. Ted Mercer is the new CEO and executive director of Virginia Space, the owner and operator of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), collocated at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. VEDP Executive Vice President Jason El Koubi spoke with Mercer about his priorities at Virginia Space, the facility’s capabilities and clients, and the importance of commercial launches at Wallops.


Jason El Koubi: Having just started at Virginia Space in August, can you share with us your early impressions and view of Virginia Space and MARS, and what drew you to the position? Ted Mercer: I’ve been around the space business for a lot of years. I started out in our nation’s Air Force in the intercontinental ballistic missile business. I sat in underground silos, ready to launch our nuclear assets should the president decide to do that. During that time, there was a program called the Follow-On Test and Evaluation Program, which tested the reliability of intercontinental ballistic missiles that had been sitting in underground silos for years. The program would randomly select a missile by serial number, remove it from its operational silo, take it to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, reinsert it into a like silo at Vandenberg, and when directed, launch it some 4,200 nautical miles downrange to the Kwajalein Atoll. I had to pull together an operations, maintenance, and logistics team encompassing some 50 to 60 people. The team went out to Vandenberg for 45 days to prepare this missile for launch. I take you back to that point because that was when I was bitten by the launch bug. I fell in love with space lift when we launched that missile downrange. I am extremely pleased to join the Virginia Space team and assume responsibility for Virginia Space and the

Rocket Lab, Accomack County



Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. There aren’t many places in the United States where you can actually launch rockets to orbit. In all of my years of service in the U.S. Air Force, government, and industry, being a part of a rocket launch is just extremely special. To be able to do that safely is a great responsibility and extremely rewarding.

We are one of only four launch spaceports in the United States that are licensed by the FAA for vertical launch into orbit. Unlike horizontal launch, vertical launch provides the ability to get larger payloads to space on a single rocket. TED MERCER CEO and Executive Director, Virginia Space


MARS has world-class facilities and an extremely strong workforce that make MARS a leader in low-earth orbit launches. The spaceport, in my view, was already well-positioned for future development. My charter is to grow that expertise and increase our operations tempo, or the frequency of launches out of MARS. El Koubi: Thinking back on your career in the Air Force and your leadership there, how does that affect the way you approach this new position? Mercer: One of the things you learn in the U.S. military is that the most important asset you have is your people. You can’t get the mission done without your people. Prior to joining Virginia Space, my career encompassed decades in aerospace and executive leadership in the military, the private sector, and then back in government after I left the private sector. I commanded what was then the 45th Logistics Group at Cape Canaveral in Florida. I ran the operational launch range for everything that launched out of the Cape, to include shuttle operations. That meant I was in charge of all optics, telemetry, radar, and command destruct systems, all the way down the coast of Florida out to the island of Antigua, and all the way to Ascension Island off the west coast of Africa. I’ve been involved in developing national security policy and operations almost my entire career. In industry, I had profit and loss responsibility in actually building the exquisite satellites for our intelligence community that were launched into orbit on behalf of this nation.

El Koubi: Can you give us a quick overview of space assets in Virginia — the facilities and capabilities? Mercer: It’s one of the things that impresses every person who comes to MARS to tour our facilities. They leave with their eyes the size of half dollars, saying to themselves, “Wow, we didn’t know that the Commonwealth of Virginia had this kind of capability.” Let me walk through some of that capability. We have basically three launchpads. Launchpad 0A is designed to handle liquid fuel rockets. The Northrop Grumman commercial Antares rocket with the payload to resupply the International Space Station launches out of Pad A. Pad B is for launching solid rockets like the Minotaur I, the Minotaur IV, and the Minotaur V. We launch many Department of Defense and national security missions, as well as other federal government satellites off of Pad B. We also launched the first lunar mission off of Pad B, the LADEE mission, the Lunar Atmospheric Dust Environmental Explorer. Pad C is a venture-class launchpad that will be used to launch the Rocket Lab Electron rocket. We built this launchpad, from groundbreaking to full operational status, in 11 months. We have a MARS command building that offers secure operational facilities for classified work, a spaceport control room, large meeting rooms, and a segregated, dedicated customer space. We have a state-of-the-art MARS Payload Processing Facility designed to accommodate and attract both classified and unclassified security missions. It’s designed to process classified and unclassified payloads simultaneously, but yet segregated for security and clearance requirements. We have an Integration and Control Facility, owned by Virginia Space and leased to Rocket Lab for them to integrate their multiple Electron launch vehicles. Additionally, it has a mission control room

X X X X X XRocket XXX

Lab, Accomack County

and office and customer space. It’s located only nine miles from their launchpad. We are one of only four launch spaceports in the United States that are licensed by the FAA for vertical launch to orbit. One interesting thing to note is that unlike horizontal launch, vertical launch provides the ability to get larger payloads to space on a single rocket. For example, most horizontal space lift operations can put up anywhere from 1,000 to about an 1,100-pound payload. We routinely launch payloads in excess of 18,000 pounds. El Koubi: We interviewed your predecessor, Dale Nash, about a year and a half ago for this publication. At that time, Mr. Nash said that about half of the launches at MARS were commercial. Can you talk about the operation today? Is it roughly the same mix, or is it changing?

Testing of newly developing delivery concepts, like the stuff that Amazon and Walmart want to do, where they want to test capability to deliver packages [via drone] in residential or downtown areas, fits very well with the MARS UAS airfield. They’ve got to have a place to test those concepts, prove them out, and certify them. Our runway is a marvelous place to do that. TED MERCER CEO and Executive Director, Virginia Space

Mercer: That’s not a cut-and-dried answer. The lines are blurring between



Northrop Grumman Space Systems, Accomack County

commercial and government launches more than they ever have before. Let me start by giving you the FAA definition. The FAA says a commercial launch is a launch that is internationally competed, or whose primary payload is commercial in nature. The reason I say that it’s not cut and dried is because we launch many payloads into orbit that may be on a commercial rocket, but the payload is a government payload — or the payload was actually built by a commercial company. In that scenario, is that a government payload or is that a satellite commercial launch? According


to the FAA’s definition, about 67% of our launches last year would be classified as commercial. The other thing I would point out is that all the rockets launched from MARS this past year were commercial launch vehicles, supporting government and DOD customers. For example, the Northrop Grumman Antares rocket that resupplies the International Space Station — the resupply is a NASA payload, but the rocket is a Northrop Grumman commercial rocket.

El Koubi: In that context, let’s talk about your priorities for MARS. How important is commercial space business to the long-term vision and operations of the spaceport? Mercer: Both commercial and government customers and payloads are very important to us, for different reasons. There are a great number of new rocket-producing companies in the business today — 88 the last time I looked — and that number is increasing. My objective is to begin leveraging


existing and future planned assets to increase our ops tempo. Whether it’s commercial rockets coming to put up government payloads or commercial payloads, we want to increase that operation tempo and continue to build our company’s already outstanding reputation, brand, and competitiveness. We see an explosion in commercial activity, and you see it already when you look at the kinds of constellations that SpaceX is putting up for their Starlink system, which you can multiply times 10 across the industry. The other thing to keep in mind is that the commercial space business is an economic engine for Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. The Wallops aerospace cluster has a significant economic impact on this region. When we did our last economic impact study in 2018, the estimated economic impact for this region from the aerospace cluster was $1.37 billion. The installations and the organizations that make up that cluster are the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, the United States Navy, NOAA, the Coast Guard, Virginia Space, Northrop Grumman, and Rocket Lab. After doing a quick survey of these organizations, it’s estimated that they support nearly 1,900 direct jobs and $145 million in salary and fringe benefits. Most of that is occurring in the Commonwealth of Virginia. El Koubi: You’re making investments right now that are drawing attention from some of those potential clients, things like the new payload processing facility. What kind of interest are you seeing from potential clients in the commercial space as you build on these incredible capabilities? Mercer: Customers can come to MARS and not have to worry about building facilities for their payload processing. All they have to do is bring their payload and their payload team and the facilities are ready and fully operational for them. That’s a huge value proposition for coming to the region. That, combined

with the MARS reputation and investments the Commonwealth has made in our infrastructure, positions us as the premier location for the venture class launch business. Those are the folks interested in aggressively pursuing launch opportunities out of MARS. On March 1 this year, Rocket Lab publicly announced they are developing a new rocket called the Neutron. It’s an 8-ton payload class rocket that can put up mega constellations on a single rocket. Rocket Lab has formally announced that they want to launch the Neutron from MARS. El Koubi: I want to zoom out to the broader focus of this issue of Virginia Economic Review. It’s all about industries of the future. What are some advances in aerospace and aviation that you find most interesting? Mercer: I’m focusing on the areas surrounding unmanned aerial systems (UAS), drone capability, and how that might factor into the industry and our ability to support that industry through our UAS runway. The advances in aerospace that I’m most focused on are UAS new rocket and propulsion technologies, new rocket classes, new satellites, and satellite systems. El Koubi: Can you go a little deeper into the capabilities and vision related to unmanned systems on the Eastern Shore? Mercer: As you well know, Virginia’s business climate was rated No. 1 for UAS development by Business Facilities magazine the last two years running. Our MARS airfield contributes to this rating due to its unique combination of assets and geography. We are the perfect location for the Department of Defense to test non-kinetic counter-UAS systems. You would not want nonkinetic UAS systems getting tested at an airport — the danger of interference and other complications is too great. We are an ideal location for that kind of multi-domain training and testing. Our

airfield is a great place to do intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance testing, land, air, and sea training. Testing of newly developing delivery concepts, like the stuff that Amazon and Walmart want to do, where they want to test capability to deliver packages in residential or downtown areas, fits very well with the MARS UAS airfield. They’ve got to have a place to test those concepts, prove them out, and certify them. Our runway is a marvelous place to do that. I think it’s beginning to catch on more and more because our operations tempo at our airfield increases year after year. El Koubi: We both have the tremendous benefit of working and living in this beautiful Commonwealth. What’s your favorite place to visit in Virginia? Mercer: We fell in love with Virginia back in the mid-‘80s when I was assigned to the Pentagon. The great thing about Virginia is there’s something for everybody to enjoy, whether you like beaches, mountains, or everything in between — you can even do some skiing in Virginia. This time of year, you really can’t beat places like Shenandoah National Park or Skyline Drive for the views, the turning of the leaves, and that kind of thing. I love the cities, the downtown areas, but the parks and watching nature take its course is also just beautiful. El Koubi: Gen. Mercer, thank you so much for being with us today. It was such a pleasure to talk with you. Mercer: It is an honor to serve the Commonwealth in this role and in this capacity, and it was an honor and a privilege to talk with you today.

For the full interview, visit








n recent years, the increased amount of available data — 64.2 zettabytes (equal to 1 trillion gigabytes) were created globally in 2020, compared to 2 zettabytes in 2010, according to Statista — and ways to analyze and use it have escalated the demand for data science professionals to fill data analyst, business intelligence engineer, and other roles. In Virginia — an East Coast tech hub that houses the third-largest tech industry workforce in the nation, totaling 315,000 people who make up the country’s highest concentration of tech talent — the need for qualified data science professionals is considerable. The Commonwealth currently has one of the highest concentrations of data scientist and mathematical science employment, according to 2020 research. Recruitment platform Zippia ranked Virginia in 2020 as one of the top 12 locations where companies were actively looking for data scientists. A separate analysis suggests tech-related jobs in the state, fueled in part by employers’ interest in data science, may increase by more than 8,500 in 2021. To help meet Virginia’s growing tech talent needs, the Commonwealth has committed $1.1 billion toward more than doubling the number of bachelor’s and master’s graduates in computer science, computer software engineering, and computer engineering in the next two decades. Nearly all of Virginia’s public four-year institutions are recipients of post-performance grant funding tied to their expansion of these degree programs. As data science continues to grow, more and more of Virginia’s colleges and universities are working to equip undergraduate and graduate students with the skills that will be required to perform data science-related tasks in a variety of industries and positions — both today and in the future. A handful of these institutions are profiled here.



Virginia Tech Innovation Campus rendering

VIRGINIA TECH Virginia Tech’s Sanghani Center for Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics, formerly known as the Discovery Analytics Center, will be housed in the first academic building at the university’s Innovation Campus near Amazon’s HQ2 in Northern Virginia. The center has served as a conduit to encourage and oversee cross-listed math, computer science, and other courses that comprise the university’s multi-department, collaborative data science and analytics programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.


For instance, students pursuing M.S. and Ph.D. degrees can explore a graduate certificate in data analytics or in urban computing, which will prepare them to utilize data science methods to address local or national government design and policy questions, said Dr. Naren Ramakrishnan, the center’s director and a professor in Virginia Tech’s department of computer science. The Sanghani Center supports community service-focused research, such as creating functionality to help

parents navigate school zoning changes, and its courses run the gamut from foundational concepts to cutting-edge topics like deep learning. It also emphasizes ethical and societal issues underlying responsible data science. “Suppose you’re using data science to make decisions about who should get a loan, or how insurance premiums should be set for a new customer,” Ramakrishnan said. “You can’t say, ‘I’m just developing my algorithms — my work stops there.’ When students graduate,

they’re not just skilled technically, they have a little bit more holistic and grounded view of how what they’re doing affects real people and outcomes.” Traditionally, the center’s data science and machine learning grads have been hired by tech companies. Recently, more have begun working at startups, financial firms, and other organizations, according to Ramakrishnan. In the coming years, the Sanghani Center and the rest of the Innovation Campus

aim to further support the data science, machine learning, and AI tech talent pipeline in Northern Virginia. “It’s a good time to be doing data science and machine learning,” Ramakrishnan said. “I tell my students, ‘You couldn’t be in a better place in terms of the career growth you’re going to see and the types of skills that are going to be the most sought after in many fields.’ Whether it’s health care, finance, or even traditional domains like manufacturing, there are so many intersections with data science.”



GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY In addition to undergraduate and graduate statistics programs, George Mason University’s (GMU) data science-related curriculum includes a computational and data science bachelor’s degree, as well as the data analytics engineering master’s program the school launched just a few years ago, according to Strategic Initiatives and Community Engagement Associate Provost Liza Wilson Durant, Ph.D. “[We recognized] the importance of data in solving engineering challenges, and that there’s a different layer of analysis required to apply data analysis to engineering challenges,” she said. “There’s more calculus, more coding involved. They have coursework in statistics, machine learning, cybersecurity, all from a data analytics perspective.” Students pursuing a variety of majors can also earn the school’s Digital Technology Credential by taking additional courses that touch on topics such as data visualization to become more adept at handling data. Durant


said that obtaining the credential also automatically qualifies students to receive GMU’s data analysis minor. The structure of the credential program allows the school to adjust its curriculum quickly to meet short- and long-term industry needs, based on frequent feedback from students who are engaged in year-round internships, industry leaders on the GMU College of Engineering and Computing Advisory Board from the Department of Homeland Security, Lockheed Martin, and other organizations, and on the College of Engineering and Computing’s alumni board. “We can tweak the content of those credentials — take a course out, add a course — very easily. The runway it takes to change a set four-year academic degree program is a little longer,” Durant said. “We’re able to tweak the credentials in real time so our students are getting what new trends, needs, and requirements we’re hearing from the community.”

George Mason University


University of Virginia School of Data Science


UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA Graduate students have been able to pursue a data science master’s degree online or onsite at the University of Virginia (UVA) since its School of Data Science was formed in 2019. The minor in data science the school debuted in spring 2021 marked another step toward offering data science programs at all three educational levels, according to Brian Wright, assistant professor and School of Data Science director of undergraduate programs, who said UVA is currently also developing a corresponding major. Students are required to take courses in five categories in the data science minor program, touching on topics such as programming with data and accessing and storing information in databases. They also work on a series of projects in a final course that allows them to put what they’ve learned into practice. The school created a number of new

classes for the minor, while students can fulfill some of the requirements with existing classes. Since the minor’s introduction, 160 students with backgrounds ranging from traditional STEM concentrations to liberal arts have taken part in the program. While the degree may not automatically land students a traditional data science job, it could position them ahead of other candidates for roles that now include computational components. “If, for instance, people are graduating with a public policy, economics, or even an English degree, these computational skills are seen as an added incentive to bring that person on,” Wright said. “If students can help companies use data to advance their place in the market — or help nonprofits make better decisions, or the federal government write better policy — there’s a value proposition around the computational power associated with analyzing that data.”



OLD DOMINION UNIVERSITY When Old Dominion University (ODU) began creating its master’s program in data science and analytics several years ago, to get input on what skills students should obtain, administrators hosted a workshop with local industry members they felt might have data science talent needs. Workshop participants mentioned a number of technical skills, according to the program’s director, Mohammad Zubair, Ph.D., such as knowing how to process, clean, and effectively visualize the data, and the ability to build statistical models to identify data trends and patterns. As a result, ODU designed its 30-credit-hour program, which launched in fall 2020, to feature five core courses, plus four courses and a capstone project from one of four available concentrations. The required core consists of three computer science courses, including an introductory data science class and two statistics courses. The core courses deal with big data visualization and modeling, collectively helping to prepare students to apply data science techniques in a variety of disciplines, Zubair said, whether they end up managing health information, working in e-commerce, or being employed in a different field.


The program, which was developed with faculty across several departments, focuses on real-world data science applications, according to Elizabeth Smith, director of interdisciplinary academic and research initiatives at ODU’s Graduate School — another suggestion from participants at the initial planning workshop. “They stressed the need for this rigorous core, but also balanced with problem solving and other kinds of critical thinking and communication,” she said. “We have tried to address that in the curriculum through requiring a capstone project. They don’t have to do a research thesis, but rather something more practical.” Concentrations such as business intelligence and geospatial analytics provide instruction on specific data science use cases. The Data Science and Analytics program, Zubair said, also places an emphasis on soft skills. “A [graduate] has to communicate with the management of the business,” he said. “They have to understand what the management wants to see — and unless you have effective communication with the business, you can’t be effective.”

Old Dominion University



Virginia Commonwealth University




V I R G I N I A C O M M O N W E A LT H UNIVERSITY Students in the weekend-based Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Master of Decision Analytics professional-track program come from a variety of backgrounds, according to Stephen Custer, Ph.D., the program’s director. Roughly half have already utilized data science at some level and want more advanced tools; the other half consists of professionals such as lawyers and political scientists whose experience working with data, Custer said, may be limited to only entering it and producing standardized reports. VCU’s weekend program serves as an option for students who hope to obtain a degree while working fulltime. Those looking for more scheduling and course flexibility can instead enroll in the university’s evening master’s program in decision analytics. Unlike the 16-month weekend lockstep program, which has a predetermined curriculum, in the evening version, students can choose elective classes and select how many courses they’d like to take at a time. Each track offers unique advantages, said Paul Brooks, professor, interim chair

of information systems, and advisor for the evening track program. “For the weekend program, they’re all taking the same classes together at the same time. One of the benefits is students are able to work on longer-term projects in groups,” Brooks said. “The evening program is more à la carte. People can take more electives, and they can specialize, if they have a particular field that they’re interested in.” VCU also offers an evening master’s in information systems with a concentration in data science, and is currently in the process of developing data science-related graduate certificates, which may be in place by next fall. This could potentially help ease the demand for data science-skilled professionals in the area. “It’s a seller’s market right now. There are many more positions out there than people to fill them,” Custer said. “Some are looking for pretty advanced levels of data science, which we turn out in our programs, but there are also a lot looking for entry-level data analysis to do specific jobs, and a certificate program can get people into those jobs. Some take a certificate program just because they want to get a foot in the door.”



eKare Brings Medical Technology to Smartphones Around the World COVID-19 HAS UNDERSCORED the

value of businesses embracing digital technologies in the healthcare space — from telehealth and remote patient monitoring to artificial intelligence (AI) for predictive analytics and diagnostic insights. During the pandemic — especially before the widespread rollout of vaccines — many vulnerable populations, such as healthcare workers and the elderly, likewise turned to remote medical care whenever possible to avoid potentially contracting or spreading the coronavirus. Digitization was the undercurrent of this new reality. At the nexus of these digitization and remote care trends is a company long aware of the challenges and opportunities in health tech: eKare, Inc. eKare describes itself as “an advanced wound imaging and data analytics company.” The Fairfax County-based software-as-a-service company was founded in 2014, borne out of a collaborative project between three biomedical engineers. Patrick Cheng, the company’s co-founder and CEO, has spent the last several years building up his company in the healthcare technology space.

TACKLING WOUND MEDICINE THROUGH A SMARTPHONE In the early 2010s, Cheng and his future co-founders, Kyle Wu and Özgür Güler, were based at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., performing needs assessments of healthcare patients and practitioners, and began noticing ways that new technologies were underutilized in addressing wound care challenges. The colleagues were experimenting with using cellphones to help patients manage post-surgery fluid intake and outtake, and that research led them to found eKare in 2014. As they refined the technology, though, they realized its potential in the wound care space could be even greater. That’s when Cheng, with a passion for business health tech, Wu, a biomedical engineer and physician, and Güler, an imaging scientist, united to launch eKare. “Fundamentally, we wanted to advance the wound imaging and diagnostics by bringing cutting-edge technology to the familiar smartphone,” Cheng said. “The technology has enabled providers to capture and assess complex wounds by just point and shoot. The higher-quality cameras in today’s smartphones open


grant programs through VEDP to assist with early-stage fundraising and took advantage of VEDP’s market research capabilities, particularly as eKare sought to understand the global market landscape. All of this was critical because many factors are key for healthcare technology startups — reimbursement arrangements within clinics, integrating a new technology into a medical practice’s IT environment, and clearly marketing how a technology will substantively improve care. eKare increasingly needed to navigate new frontiers beyond research and development. Now, eKare has partnerships with a number of organizations in Singapore and Hong Kong. Its largest international markets are the United Kingdom and the European Union, and it has a Dutch subsidiary, eKare Europe.


eKare, Inc., Fairfax County

up the possibility for unprecedented levels of clear, 3D imaging, and the platform enabled providers to streamline and standardize clinical workflow and documentation.” Cheng, Wu, and Güler built inSight®, a 3D digital wound management platform now used by thousands of organizations worldwide, from large Fortune 500 conglomerates to small emergency rooms and medical clinics. But the company’s journey to global market reach was filled with challenges — and finding the right partners and platforms through which to grow the business.

SCALING UP INTERNATIONALLY When eKare first launched, there was great excitement about its technology.


Medical professionals relying on expensive equipment to image patients’ wounds were presented the option of using a smartphone. Imaging could be done more quickly, at lower cost, and with highly accurate measurements. inSight was only the beginning of eKare’s journey; other challenges in marketing, pricing, and expansion lay ahead. That went doubly so in international markets that did not yet see the need for the product — or that were a challenge for a new U.S. firm to reach. In addition to its own outreach, Cheng said, working with VEDP’s International Trade division helped eKare reach those global business opportunities. The company originally leveraged multiple

Marketing eKare’s technology internationally was a big step in the company’s journey. Finding the right partners has also been crucial. “Every specialty is like its own mini-industry within healthcare. They have their own associations; they have their own groups of people that they talk to,” Cheng said. “It’s very important for us when we go into the space to find the companies that are good potential partners. If we don’t interact with the right type of company, even if they’re in the healthcare industry, it might not be a good fit.” VEDP helped arrange meetings with other companies, as well as participation in specialized health tech conferences and trade shows. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, eKare participated in a virtual trade


mission to South Korea and Japan, an opportunity VEDP helped facilitate. As a result, Cheng said, eKare was able to connect with a Japanese company that works in a similar area — and that may potentially serve as a future partner for the company. More recently, eKare was selected to participate in VEDP’s Virginia Leaders in Export Trade (VALET) program. “They provide many helpful resources for a company like us in our current stage,” Cheng said, “like with managing our workforce, managing taxation issues across multiple countries, and other issues.”

THE FUTURE OF ADVANCED WOUND IMAGING AND MED-TECH Going forward, eKare’s vision goes far beyond that of smartphone imaging software. “Now that we have a very complex platform, our vision moving forward is that we have a huge repository of very good data about these conditions,” Cheng said. “We want to leverage that data to help providers or a patient improve outcomes.”

eKare’s inSight® wound management platform leverages improvements to smartphone cameras to enhance wound imaging and treatment.

On top of that, improvements to the smartphone technology could enhance imaging even further and identify things not visible to the human eye. Bacteria could be imaged through fluorescence scanning, or eKare could develop its technology to assess how much oxygen might be flowing to the skin based on smartphone imaging. Beyond that, Cheng describes his vision as three-fold: “One, a pointof-care mobile device digital solution that everyone has in their hands to help collect data. The second piece is really enhancing that ability to see things beyond the visible, to see the physiological parameters that aren’t usually visible for normal humans. And lastly, bringing all this data together to create smart, intelligent AI solutions to help people improve care.”

eKare’s international marketing and public relations efforts include securing coverage in publications like Chilean newspaper El Mercurio.



Entrepreneurship and

Quality of Life Meet

Home to mountains, wineries, and Founding Fathers, Central Virginia boasts a rich talent pool strong in business and financial services, information technology, defense, and advanced manufacturing. The region is home to a rich culture of innovation and entrepreneurship surrounding the University of Virginia, the fourth-best public university in the United States in U.S. News & World Report’s 2022 rankings and one of four universities in the world to be recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area is known for its natural beauty and outstanding quality of life — in 2019, Kiplinger named Charlottesville the happiest place to retire in the United States.

CENTRAL VIRGINIA OFFERS A strong defense sector anchored by the National Ground Intelligence Center and the Defense Intelligence Agency, along with numerous private companies


Access to Shenandoah National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyline Drive, and the Appalachian Trail

Interstate 64, which runs through the region and offers easy connectivity to nearby Interstates 81 and 95

Downtown Mall, Charlottesville


The Commonwealth’s leading research universities, thriving food production industry, natural beauty, and quality of life in Central Virginia are second to none. We are blessed with a skilled workforce in this region and can also recruit talented individuals from anywhere in the world. We have had opportunities to grow outside Virginia, but we are happy with our choice to deepen our roots here at home. ED ROGERS CEO, Bonumose, Inc.


Nelson NelsonCounty County


Two of the Founding Fathers of the United States retired to Central Virginia estates — Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Albemarle County, shown here, and James Madison’s Montpelier in Orange County.


James Madison’s Montpelier, Orange County


King Family Vineyards, Albemarle County


The Central Virginia wine industry dates back to the 18th century, when Thomas Jefferson attempted to make wine at his Albemarle County estate, Monticello. Today, the region is home to more than 50 wineries, including Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyard in Albemarle County.

Michael Shaps Wineworks, Albemarle County


Downtown Culpeper


Old Rag Mountain, Madison County


The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Vehicle Research Center in Greene County performs the crash tests that form the basis of the organization’s widely respected vehicle safety ratings.

The National Audiovisual Conservation Center in Culpeper County, the only Library of Congress facility located outside Washington, D.C., is home to the world’s largest collection of movies, television programs, radio broadcasts, and sound recordings.


Central Virginia’s educational institutions include the University of Virginia (pictured), Germanna Community College, and Piedmont Virginia Community College.


Economic Development Partners in Virginia VEDP works in close partnership with local and regional economic development organizations. For a full list of local and regional partners, visit In addition, VEDP regularly works with a wide network of statewide partners, including: State Leadership Partners

Project Delivery Partners


Colleges and universities across the Commonwealth (e.g., UVA, Virginia Tech, William & Mary)

General Assembly

Policy and Programmatic Partners Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit

GO Virginia

Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia

Virginia Chamber of Commerce, as well as many local and regional chambers of commerce

Virginia Agribusiness Council

Virginia Economic Developers Association

Virginia Association of Counties

Virginia Farm Bureau

Major Employment and Investment (MEI) Commission

CSX, Norfolk Southern, and short-line railroads

Secretary of Commerce and Trade

Dominion, AEP, and other electric utilities

Secretary of Finance

The Port of Virginia

Virginia Department of Transportation

Virginia Community College System

Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation

Virginia Business Higher Education Council

Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality

Virginia Tourism Corporation

Virginia Cable Telecommunications Association, Virginia Manufacturers Association, Virginia Maritime Association, Virginia Realtors Association, and many other trade associations

Virginia Department of Taxation

Virginia Business Council

Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development

Virginia Municipal League Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions Virginia Rural Center


Virginia’s Technology Councils



Roanoke Region New River Valley




Southwest Virginia






I81-I77 Crossroads 77 58

88 88


Northern Shenandoah Valley


Washington, D.C.

66 81

Northern Virginia

211 33


Shenandoah Valley


Greater Fredericksburg

Central Virginia


95 81

Northern Neck







Eastern Shore

Middle Peninsula 13

Greater Richmond Lynchburg Region

60 288






Virginia’s Gateway Region




South Central 360 Virginia

Southern Virginia





Hampton Roads








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