WILMINGTON – A new state advisory group intends to increase Delaware’s spotlight as a science and technology innovation hub, helping the state remain competitive in the region for growing and relocating companies.
The Science & Tech Advisors Group, announced Dec. 30, consists of representatives from Delaware’s top tech companies, industry organizations, institutions of higher education and state government. It will be chaired by Patrick Callahan, co-founder of the Delaware Data Innovation Lab and CEO of Wilmington data analytics firm CompassRed.
As the First State’s spotlight grows under an impending President Joe Biden, Callahan told Delaware Business Times that there is a “huge opportunity to really take this to the next level.” Organization of the new group that was sought by Delaware’s public-private economic development agency, the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, took several months behind the scenes in 2020, but it has been a goal for Gov. John Carney since he announced his transition plan four years ago.
Callahan credited J. Michael Bowman, state director of the Small Business Development Corp. and chairman and president of the Delaware Technology Park, an innovation hub near the University of Delaware, for setting the foundation that the group hopes to build on. With startups growing rapidly, an established group of big-name companies and fertile training grounds at UD and Delaware State University, Callahan said that Delaware is poised to benefit.
“I hate to say this, but the pandemic sort of brings an eye toward the need for this type of industry in our region,” he said. “It seems like it’s the perfect timing for all this to really take off.”
The effort to increase the state’s advocacy for the growing science and technology industry also comes after DPP commissioned a market assessment in 2019 that established the sector as a growth prospect. About 40% of DPP’s pipeline of business expansion or relocation projects are in the science and technology sector.
While companies may also look at neighboring states like Pennsylvania and Maryland, Callahan said that he believes Delaware’s smaller size allows it to be nimbler to the needs of its employers, and the Advisory Group is working on drafting both state and federal legislation for consideration.
“We can put in policy legislation that makes an impact right away. So, if anyone thinks we’re behind, we have an opportunity to leapfrog above that very quickly,” he said.
Callahan said that he also envisions the group helping state companies to identify potential funding sources and lobby federal leaders for funding as well – once again aided by the connection to a Biden administration. The work of the group will be done in subcommittees, but the whole will be a larger voice for Delaware’s science and tech companies, he added.
Delaware also has an advantage from a diversity and inclusion standpoint, as it ranks highly in terms of its diverse, trained workforce and its aptitude for technical skills, according to a Harvard Business Review study. Callahan said that means Delaware is poised to gain as companies seek to diversify their staff, especially with the growth of pandemic-spurred remote working.
“[Diversity and inclusion] is becoming more and more important because for science and data science, you need that diversity and inclusion, that different eye, that context, to be able to do the analysis,” he explained.
“Historically, we have been a science state,” Callahan said, noting that at one time Delaware had a higher per capita ratio of doctorate holders than any other state. He pointed to DuPont, MBNA and other companies that created a wellspring of trained workers.
“All that kind of exploded, but it left this good, fertile ground of knowledge capital that can be pulled together and then leveraged for all the next businesses that are going to be growing here,” he said.
Aside from Callahan, the advisory group also includes:
- Hacene Boukari (Delaware State University)
- Mike Bowman (Small Business Development Center, Delaware Technology Park)
- Desa Burton (ZipCode Wilmington)
- Serban Cantacuzene (Air Liquide)
- Dora Cheatham (Delaware Sustainable Chemistry Alliance)
- Anne Clauss (CompassRed)
- Andrew Cottone (Adesis)
- Isaac Ferreira (Perdue Farms)
- Michael Fleming (Delaware Bioscience Association)
- Julie Garner (Astra Zeneca)
- Joy Goswami (University of Delaware)
- Annie Gutsche (Corteva)
- John Hammond (AirGreen)
- Lisa Hoffman (FMC)
- John Koh (Delaware Biotechnology Institute)
- Katie Lakofsky (Delaware Technical Community College)
- David Lawson (University of Delaware)
- Tim Mueller (Delaware Innovation Space)
- Erica Nemser (Compact Membrane Systems)
- Rob Nicholson (Delaware Department of Technology and Information)
- Jutta Pils (DuPont Digital)
- Brian Pryor (LiteCure)
- Mike Rinkunas (University of Delaware)
- Peggy Scherle (Prelude Therapeutics)
- Steven Stanhope (University of Delaware)
- Bryan Tracy (White Dog Labs)
- Kris Vaddi (Prelude Therapeutics)
- Chris Yochim (National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals)