Hampton Roads launches maritime workforce, economic initiatives
ODU, HRMC to focus on innovation in maritime industry
The Hampton Roads Maritime Collaborative for Growth and Innovation (HRMC) and Old Dominion University announced two maritime initiatives Thursday with the goal of strengthening economic development in the region.
ODU President Brian Hemphill announced the establishment of the ODU Maritime Consortium, which will grow the university’s maritime-related degree and certificate programs. The consortium will report to the provost and the vice president of the Office of Research, and will be led by an executive director, a newly created position that will be filled through a nationwide search.
Also released Thursday was a report detailing ways to leverage the region’s resources to expand its maritime workforce, presented by HRMC co-chair John O. “Dubby” Wynne.
The consortium will have an internal operations group that will represent all the colleges and key centers at ODU, and there will also be a technical group focused on collaboration and expansion, an external advisory board and other internal groups.
In fall 2020, former ODU President John Broderick established the maritime initiative leadership work group, which included 14 senior faculty and staff from all of ODU’s colleges and its Office of Research.
“Our challenge now is to look at how we can identify more specific areas that we can truly become national and international leaders within that work,” Hemphill said at Thursday’s announcement in Norfolk.
ODU already has several centers in place to support this work, including the Virginia Institute for Spaceflight and Autonomy, the OpenSeas Technology Innovation Hub, the Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, maritime Industrial Base Ecosystem, the Institute for Coastal Adaptation and Resilience, and the School of Cybersecurity/Coast Virginia Cybersecurity Innovation.
The “Pathway for Maritime Innovation in Hampton Roads” report released Thursday highlights four major economic drivers in the region: maritime, defense, shipbuilding and repair; port and logistics; offshore wind energy and coastal resilience.
According to the report, the leading maritime activities found in Hampton Roads represent significant and growing market opportunities totaling $34 billion in the U.S. and average growth expected above 5% annually.
The report, produced by TEConomy Partners LLC, recommends four pathways for Hampton Roads to take advantage of the opportunities in the maritime space:
- Developing a national hub for autonomous systems;
- Organizing a maritime small business innovation collaborative;
- Establishing a Department of Defense center of excellence for naval sustainment and mission engineering; and
- Building a sustainable home and brand for maritime innovation in Hampton Roads
“We have a lot of the right ingredients, and when you put it all together … we have in existence already organizations who could really make this come alive. But we also need to bring a focus around the innovation drivers, autonomous systems, digital transformation … and then think about the ecosystem and that’s what we’re looking to advance,” said Mitch Horowitz, principal and managing director of TEConomy Partners.
“What this shows is that when we get done, we are going to have an interconnected, deep, robust set of interactions for this marathon cluster around innovation. We’re simply connecting the dots … and enabling it to come alive and making sure the region is open to bringing in innovators from around the world who say Hampton Roads is the place you need to be if you want to do well in American markets.”
Wynne, the retired president and CEO of Landmark Communications Inc., pointed out Thursday that the Hampton Roads region has underachieved economically. It has many unique qualities — including the largest naval base in the world, the Port of Virginia and companies such as Huntington Ingalls Industries, Newport News Shipbuilding, NASA Langley and Jefferson Lab — but still requires a plan for the future that provides sustainable economic growth, he said.
Reinvent Hampton Roads submitted an application for the “Build Back Better Regional Challenge” grant through the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which identified the theme of maritime innovation as an industry cluster, with three of seven projects based directly on the report. The $1 billion challenge will provide a transformational investment to 20 to 30 regions across the country that want to revitalize their economies, according to the USEDA. The first phase, which had an application deadline in October, will award 50 to 60 coalitions with $500,000 each to develop and support three to eight projects to grow a regional growth cluster. In the second phase, with a deadline of March 15, the EDA will award 20 to 30 regional coalitions between $25 million to $100 million to implement the projects.
“We had an immediate opportunity to put these plans into action,” Jim Spore, president and CEO of Reinvent Hampton Roads, said in a statement. “While there is no guarantee that we will win the grant, we have laid a strong foundation and coalition of partners to move ahead on other fronts as well.”
The next step is conducting a national search to lead the effort, and following the four pathways identified in the report, said Nancy Grden, HRMC’s executive director and associate vice president for the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at ODU.