Headwaters Tech Hub|

It’s an exciting time for Montana, and for our tech sector especially. Last October, the Headwaters Tech Hub (HTH) was selected over some very tough competition to be designated as one of 31 Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs by the Economic Development Administration. The program was established through the landmark bipartisan 2022 CHIPS and Science legislation aimed at keeping the US at the leading edge of advanced technology development and manufacturing. The HTH will do exactly that – building on Montana’s existing strength in smart optical sensing technologies and expanding our capabilities into autonomous systems, national defense, precision agriculture, critical resource management, and more.

I couldn’t be more thrilled to be leading this effort as the interim HTH Executive Director and Regional Innovation Officer for the Headwaters Tech Hub. I appreciate the trust that the HTH Steering Committee has placed in me to get our fantastic team over the finish line. We have a big team of really smart folks coming from industry, government, academia and, more. We’re fortunate to have no shortage of good ideas, so my job basically comes down to connecting the dots, helping turn the ideas into concrete plans, and making sure those plans combine to achieve a vision that aligns with EDA’s goals for the Tech Hub program.

While I’m new to the lead role, I’m not new to the Headwaters Tech Hub team, or to the broader effort strengthen innovation ecosystems nationwide. I started out on an academic track, earning a Ph.D. in Engineering and then teaching and doing research for several years at Washington State University over in Pullman. Then in 2014 I joined the National Science Foundation as a program director for EPSCoR, where I focused on building up R&D capacity at universities in rural and low-population states like Montana. That work was rewarding, and the EPSCoR program was ahead of the curve in turns of understanding how targeted R&D investments away from the coasts could yield big rewards.

For the last couple years, I worked on technology and transportation policy for Senator Tester out of his DC office. Tester saw how the Regional Tech Hub program could be a boon for Montana, and one of my top priorities on his team was to make that possibility a reality. That first meant making sure the CHIPS and Science legislation gave attention to rural interests, and then working with EDA to build in flexibilities for a Hub like ours. But most importantly it meant that I was able to join the amazing team from the Montana Chamber, the MT Department of Commerce, and the MT University System as they worked to develop a compelling and ultimately successful proposal to win the Tech Hub designation last fall.

This work has already been the highlight of my career, but truly the best is yet to come. Our team is pushing hard toward the February 29 deadline and our portfolio of planned projects is incredible – projects focused on technology deployment and assessment, workforce, and entrepreneur and business development. I’m confident that we’re going to be successful in landing tens of millions in new federal dollars and unlocking even more investment from new and established industry partners. You can expect to be hearing all about in the months ahead, but if you want to make sure you’re getting all the details, take a moment to sign up for our updates here.

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