The biotechnology industry is growing rapidly, and it spells big things for the future of the Roanoke-Blacksburg region. A regional coalition is building a biotechnology hub, including new lab space and an innovation studio, in Downtown Roanoke.
The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development recently approved the release of $15.7 million in funds awarded to the City of Roanoke to create 40,000 square feet of shared lab space in Roanoke. The project is a collaboration like no other for this region with partners that will build, manage, and develop programming in a building in Roanoke’s innovation corridor. The city’s other partners include Carilion Clinic, Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center and Verge.
But success doesn’t just come down to lab space. Bringing a concept to market involves successfully navigating regulatory, legal, financial, and business requirements on top of doing brilliant research. Thanks to Verge’s (RBTC is part of the Verge alliance) newest project, a regional innovation studio, scientists and technologist launching biotech and technology startups in Roanoke will have access to coaching, business services and three levels of accelerators alongside programming and facilities that support business growth.
We’re on a mission to nurture local research startups, talent and attract life science companies from outside the area. This project includes an innovation studio that is designed to take the hardship out of being an entrepreneur so ideas can move from the research lab to the bedside more seamlessly.
What’s exceptional about this project is that the region will house three levels of business accelerators to help startups and entrepreneurs at every phase of their growth.
- The Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP) at George Mason University is for very early-stage startups working to establish their business.
- Regional Accelerator & Mentoring Program (RAMP) in Roanoke is designed for companies that are a couple of years old and ready to grow.
- Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS Incubation Program is for well-established startups looking to scale their business. It’s a global program that can help connect companies to additional resources.
Further, this will be a place that can help scientists determine what business accelerator is best based on the maturity of their business. Business accelerators give startups access to education, investors, and other support to fast-track their growth. Verge and RBTC have relationships with three different accelerators (one being our own, RAMP) tailored to support startups at varying stages of development. The accelerators can be layered together like a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and a Ph.D.
What makes business acceleration in this region so special is its personalized approach. Verge (to include RBTC and RAMP) meticulously researched innovation support programs from all over the country and created a program that doesn’t exist anywhere else. It’s unique to the assets of the region and is proud to partner with innovation powerhouses like Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Virginia Western Community College, and Radford University just to name a few. We know that biotech commercialization takes a village and that’s just what the innovation studio provides.
“Thanks to forward-thinking collaboration, Roanoke is emerging as a place biotech companies want to be,” said Marc Nelson, City of Roanoke Director of Economic Development. “Cutting-edge, affordable lab space, educational pipe-lines, and wrap-around business support has created an environment that generates life-changing technologies.”
Additional programming at the innovation studio will be led by an expert director who will work one-on-one with scientists to understand their research and business proposal, assess the maturity of their current business plan, and develop a tailored path through regional and state-wide innovation resources. The innovation studio can also connect scientists to funding sources, executive and business support, mentors, and office and lab space.
The biotechnology hub is expected to generate 250 jobs with an average salary of $70,000 per year over five years, with a $17.5 million return in employment-related revenue for the local economy.
We’re excited to add capacity to strengthen regional programming for early-stage biotechnology and technology companies. With the support of our partners, the region is developing into a startup hub with all of the support elements and a strong ecosystem where science and tech companies can grow and thrive.