The Region Forward Coalition met at The Washington Post and toured global incubator 1776 for their quarterly meeting in July, which focused on fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in metropolitan Washington.
1776, led by Managing Director David Zipper, helps entrepreneurs enter sectors that are typically highly regulated and therefore challenging to break into, such as health care, transportation, energy, and education. Their members range from companies providing solutions for patient-doctor communication to recharging your electric vehicle anywhere in the world.
According to Zipper, advancing innovation in the D.C. region depends on the ability to transcend jurisdictional boundaries, to connect research and development from universities and labs with the private sector, and connect start-ups with the venture capital and other resources they need to grow, whether those resources come from the District of Columbia, Maryland, or Virginia. Dr. Courtney Silverthorn of the Federal Labs Consortium (FLC) described how FLC helps federal agencies accelerate tech transfer of R&D into the private sector through patents, information exchange, licensing, and more.
COG is working to forge these types of connections in the region.
In April, the COG Board of Directors approved a resolution to explore opportunities for collaboration between COG and the FLC, as a way to advance regional economic competitiveness. According to a proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between COG and the FLC, the organizations will work with partner agencies, federal, business, university, and other stakeholders to identify regional priority sectors that can be supported by assistance from the federal labs. This includes convening a forum of federal labs, business incubators, and local economic directors to share opportunities for tech transfer, and identifying ways to support innovation and increased tech transfer from federal labs to the private sector.
The Washington Post’s Jonathan O’Connell expressed his hope that the subsidy game which often leads companies to locate where they can get the biggest tax breaks, rather than a place where they can grow and thrive over the long term-is fading. Instead of spending major resources courting individual companies or agencies, officials could focus on placemaking and creating conditions in which businesses can thrive-strategies that can benefit the wider community long-term. Strong Activity Centers, or communities that offer housing, transportation, jobs, services, and amenities, provide access to countless opportunities for residents, workers, and businesses. They are critical to ensuring the region’s future competitiveness and success.
In support of the COG Board’s focus on economic competitiveness this year, over the next few months, the Region Forward Coalition will be developing an evaluation of the region’s performance on a variety of metrics and indicators related to competitiveness.