Baltimore competes to become a federal tech hub that could bring 52,000 jobs

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Baltimore-area leaders aim to be in the running to become a national tech hub similar to Silicon Valley or Boston as the city competes for a federal designation and billions of dollars in funding.

A 35-member consortium led by the Greater Baltimore Committee is finalizing a bid seeking to become one of 20 or more cities or regions chosen for the federal Tech Hubs Program.


If it succeeds, federal funding — an estimated $500 million over five years — is expected to generate $3.2 billion in economic impact and 52,000 jobs by 2030 in a region including Baltimore and seven surrounding counties, GBC officials say.

“This is a historic, once-in-a-generation type of designation and funding opportunity because of the size of funding,” said Pothik Chatterjee, GBC’s chief economic officer. “We believe the Baltimore region has a strong opportunity to win based on the strengths of our assets.”


The $10 billion economic development initiative, approved as part of the federal CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, aims to spur technology-related manufacturing and commercialization in parts of the country with potential to become globally competitive and create jobs in 10 years. Applications are due Tuesday to the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration, which plans to announce selections in September.

The program aims to diversify technology investment and development beyond Silicon Valley, Boston and New York, which currently attract 80% of tech funding. Others reportedly seeking designations include Richmond, Virginia; Toledo, Ohio; and Houston, as well as regions of Colorado, Michigan and North Carolina.

Baltimore’s group describes its hub as focusing on the intersection of artificial intelligence and biotechnology, an area still in the early stages of adoption. It refers to the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning on health data for applications such as diagnostics and drug development.

The consortium says the area is primed to combine artificial intelligence, machine learning and autonomy with biotech, medical technology, genomics and synthetic biology, and to commercialize technologies that can improve health at the individual, community and national levels.

“We’re saying that our Baltimore region is going to be globally competitive at the intersection of those two tech focus areas,” Chatterjee said.

The technology can be used in areas such as clinical decision-making, bioethics, development of personalized medicine and new therapeutics. Other goals include developing advanced biomanufacturing capabilities and developing advanced med-tech manufacturing.

The consortium estimates an economic impact of $3.2 billion in the region by 2030 and a global economic impact of $600 billion by that year.

The group includes historically Black colleges and universities Morgan State University and Coppin State University, along with the Johns Hopkins University, Loyola University Maryland, University of Maryland Medical Center, University of Maryland Baltimore, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Towson University, Harford Community College and Cecil College.


Other members are local businesses, workforce development organizations, and state and local governments, and economic development agencies. Over three months of meetings, the group has identified 40 tech-related projects requiring $700 million in funding. In addition, 60 area tech firms have offered letters of support for the bid.

Some area companies supporting the effort include Haystack Oncology, which developed testing technology to aid in early detection of cancer; EpiWatch, which developed an app to help manage epilepsy; and Bullfrog AI, which uses machine learning to develop pharmaceuticals.

“The world is moving digital, and technology is the backbone to all of that,” said Todd Marks, founder, president and CEO of Baltimore-based Mindgrub Technologies, a consortium member. “By being a tech hub ... [the region] is going to get that much more attention, and then fast-forward 10, 15, 20 years, it’s going to be phenomenal for us.”

The Baltimore region already should be recognized for its assets and advances in med tech and other technologies, but often is not seen that way, he said.

The region — which includes Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford, Howard, Carroll, Cecil and Queen Anne’s counties — has an advantage as home to more than 400 tech startups with access to federal and academic research and development spending and more than a dozen accelerators supporting companies, Chatterjee said.

The region also has a history of commercialization in medical diagnostics, health care analytics, medical devices, and gene and drug therapeutics. With a diverse racial population, the region has a chance as well to develop an equitable and inclusive tech hub, he said.


“With the private institutes we have here and the universities, I think we have the ideal ecosystem for hosting such a hub,” said Willie E. May, vice president of research and economic development and a chemistry professor at Morgan State. “We think we have all of the components that are necessary to put together an innovative, vibrant and thriving tech hub to move this country forward in this area.”

The bid marks one of the GBC’s first big initiatives under the leadership of Mark Anthony Thomas, who steered economic development in Pittsburgh, New York and Los Angeles before replacing longtime GBC CEO Donald Fry in December, taking over a group that merged last year with the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore. In unveiling a 10-year strategy for the city and region in May, Thomas said economic expansion could be fueled by more involvement from the private sector, working collaboratively with government and community members, with GBC as an active leader.

“What has been really inspiring is to see how GBC has stepped into this coalition-building role,” said Andrew Coy, CEO of Digital Harbor Foundation, a consortium member that works to create pathways from the classroom to future technology careers.

“I’m really encouraged to see how this moment is taking shape,” he said, with members thinking broadly about what’s best for the region and making room for each other’s ideas.

“It does feel like we’re all linking arms and ... bringing this type of energy to the region,” Coy said. “There’s more than enough work for everyone to do their piece of it.”

The region’s proposal outlines several ideas for building the hub, each of which includes collaboration with various combinations of stakeholders.


One concept involves creating an accelerator and funding program that would invest in AI-based therapeutic ventures led by minority entrepreneurs, with partners such as Blackbird Labs, Fearless, Johns Hopkins, University of Maryland, Upsurge and Morgan State. Another proposes building a physical center to anchor the hub.

Morgan State will be developing property near its campus that could house hub-related facilities, May said. And three of Morgan’s state-funded research centers could play a role as well, including the Center for Equitable AI & Machine Learning Systems, the Cybersecurity Assurance & Policy Center and a new Center for Education and Research in Microelectronics, where a small chips manufacturing facility will be installed for education and demonstration purposes.

“We want to be in a position to support the future workforce in this area of advanced chips manufacturing,” May said.

The proposal also calls for bio-manufacturing facilities that could produce biomaterials; lab infrastructure to support biotech; and life sciences startups and workforce development and training.

Coy said that if the region’s bid is successful, he would like to see efforts to “help young people in Baltimore today see that they can be a part of that picture” of emerging tech careers. Programs, which would be fleshed out later in the hub designation process, could take many forms, from mentorships to workshops at rec centers hosted by professionals in emerging industries.

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The bid’s regional focus means participation from surrounding counties.


“I really feel like Howard County is in a good position to strengthen that application and also benefit from it,” said Jennifer Jones, CEO of the Howard County Economic Development Authority.

The authority already is working to scale up emerging technology through the Maryland Innovation Center in Columbia, where about 30 incubator tech and other startups are getting help growing and promoting businesses. A tech hub designation and funding would allow the center to expand its work to more of the county and the broader region and better cultivate an emerging technology pipeline, Jones said.

Areas selected as hubs in September will be eligible to move on to a second phase to apply for funding for specific projects. An initial pool of $500 million of the $10 billion has been allocated to distribute among all hubs in the first phase.

A hub in Baltimore would not only stem the city’s declining population and attract businesses and tech jobs, but could have national implications, helping to control rising health care costs, Chatterjee said.

Studies have shown that broader adoption of AI in health care can lead to cost savings of 5% to 10%, he said.

“By growing our AI and biotech ecosystem in Baltimore,” he said, “we can help contribute to national priorities around reining in health care spending.”