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Brian Ball

Gov. Ralph Northam recently signed legislation to establish the Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority (VIPA) in an effort to boost the state’s technology aspirations.

In recent years, investment into the state’s tech-based operations was inadequate for fostering growth and solving rising technology challenges.

So the partnership will receive funds from the $47.35 million sale of Virginia’s Center of Innovation Technology, a 149,000-square-foot office building that was purchased by affiliates of Origami Capital Partners and Timberline Real Estate Partners.

Northam stated:

VIPA will focus on job creation, new company formation, investment in applied research projects, and capital investment in Virginia companies.

The Secretary of Commerce and Trade, Brian Ball, will have jurisdiction granted by the governor over VIPA’s strategic development, planning and budgeting. This will make him or a designee ex-officio on VIPA’s 11-voting member governing board of directors, including the governor’s six non-legislative citizens appointments; and the Joint Rules Committee’s appointments of three non-legislative citizens and one technology transfer director from a major institution related to research or higher education (pg. 3). Recently, only Northam has made appointments to the board including:

  • Monique Adams, Executive Director of 757 Angels;
  • Barbara D. Boyan, PhD, Dean of College of Engineering, Virginia Commonwealth University;
  • Richard Hall, Managing Director, Orion Capital;
  • Chiedo John, Engineering Manager, GitHub and Founder, Generate Impact;
  • Kurt John, Chief Cybersecurity Officer at Siemens USA; and
  • Paula Sorrell, Associate Vice President of Innovation and Economic Development, George Mason University.

The board has the authority to designate a not-for-profit to fulfill the day-to-day operations. But the structure will be made up of three divisions to ensure there is emphasis on the entrepreneurial ecosystems, direct and indirect investments, and commercialization of research (pgs. 5-6):

  • Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Division: support tech-based entrepreneurship activities by allocating resources, administer funds, and coordinate state-wide and regional campaigns.
  • Investment Division: have oversight on direct and indirect investments on the Partnership’s behalf
  • Commercialization of Research Division: enhance tech-based research and promote excellence throughout the Commonwealth.

VIPA’s launch comes at a crucial moment during the COVID-19 pandemic. The country is currently facing major tech-related COVID-19 challenges such as threats to cybersecurity; closing the digital divide in education and elsewhere; expanding broadband; diversifying economic markets and growth.

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