Ralph Northam issues technology policy plan

Democratic Party gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam has unveiled his policy plan to build and expand Virginia’s vibrant technology ecosystem to underpin high-growth emerging industries and position Virginia as a global technology leader.

As a doctor and a scientist, Northam knows the importance of technology to the future of the commonwealth. Virginia has a strong technology industry and a vast array of assets spanning from advanced materials to aerospace. In the technology sector, while special emphasis will be placed on emerging and high-growth markets, increased investment in foundational aspects of technology development will have a positive impact across all technology sectors.

“We have the opportunity here in Virginia to capitalize on our technology assets and transform our commonwealth into a leading player on the rapidly-growing technology stage,” said Dr. Ralph Northam. “As governor, I’m going to make sure we stay on the cutting edge, and make the investments needed to keep Virginia at the forefront of the 21st century workforce. We owe it to ourselves and to our economy to continue forging ahead into the future.”

Virginia is home to the technology corridor in Northern Virginia, multiple NASA sites, and emerging markets such as cybersecurity and unmanned aerial systems. Northam has been a long-time advocate of STEM-H education, and getting science and technology integrated into education at a young age.

These investment entailed in Northam’s plan will promote startups and entrepreneurship and work to foster a statewide ecosystem of access to capital and mentorships. Coupled with Ralph’s call for a zero BPOL and merchant’s capital tax for new startup small businesses in rural or economically distressed areas for the first two years, we will ignite innovation and entrepreneurship across the Commonwealth.

In order to retain, grow, and attract new technology companies in Virginia, a Northam Administration will:

  • Establish Virginia as the best state for talent through investing in workforce development and education.  This will ensure that Virginia companies have access to workers who have industry-relevant skills— at all educational levels;

  • Build technology-focused communities and infrastructure;

  • Grow economic clusters around targeted industries including cybersecurity, life sciences and personalized medicine, big data and analytics, and autonomous systems; and

  • Support high-tech company formation by expanding early stage investments in high growth companies.


Virginia: the Best State for Talent

We are in a global competition for talent, and by investing in education and workforce development, Virginia will become the best state in the nation for talent. This will help keep our students and workforce here in the state, as well as attract talent from across the country and the world.


  • Increase computer science education and make it easily accessible by all students in the commonwealth

  • Emphasize STEM-H education, interdisciplinary general math and science courses, and specific course offerings for high school students, like in cybersecurity

  • Expand access to dual enrollment programs, especially in career and technical education (CTE) around the state

Higher Education:

  • Four Year Promise which guarantees level tuition and gives families the predictability they need.

  • Expand UVA-Wise, because doing so will serve as a catalyst to recruit talent from around the world to the region.

  • Encourage greater collaboration across our higher education system in research and commercialization to create jobs and grow our economy.


  • Align workforce training programs with the needs of business and industry

  • Continue to oppose harmful and discriminatory legislation similar to HB2 in North Carolina

  • Oppose the Trump Administration’s DACA Decision, and and support and protect our dreamers


Establish Virginia as a leader in Smart Community Development

  • Continue the work of the  Smart Community Workgroup.

  • Work with the private sector and federal partners to develop best practices and implementation guidelines for communities while also supporting the creation and commercialization of new technologies to support smart communities.


Building Technology Infrastructure

  • Broadband. Tens of thousands more households and businesses online will be by the end of Dr. Northam’s term.

  • Transportation. Support the bipartisan 2013 transportation package championed by Governor McDonnell, Speaker Howell, and leaders from the technology community and chambers of commerce, including the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

  • METRO. Support a strong METRO system and the necessary changes to make the system more safe and accountable.

  • Aviation. Support  last year’s action to assist Dulles in its efforts to be competitive and keep United Airlines.

  • Data Centers. Commit to growing our data center footprint, especially in rural Virginia.

  • Digital Ports. Work to leverage the capabilities of new “digital port” assets to the benefit of all areas in Virginia.


Cluster Focus

There are limited funds and resources with which a Governor can attract businesses. Governor Northam will work through the Governor’s Opportunity Fund, GO Virginia, and economic development stakeholders in the public and private sectors to grow and attract businesses that are part of a strategic plan to grow the economy in top priority areas. These areas all have a “spin-off” or “cluster” focus which leads to other economic opportunities:

  • Cyber security,

  • Life sciences and personalized medicine,

  • Big data and analytics, and

  • Autonomous Systems


Extend Virginia’s Leadership in Cyber Security

There are 76 million attacks on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s network each year. At the same time, there are currently 36,000 open cyber jobs in the state — the most in the nation, and with an average starting salary of $88,000. Growing our cyber security capabilities will not only help grow our economy, but it will keep us safe. A Northam administration will:

  • Continue to support educational efforts to integrate hands-on cyber security training into all majors and disciplines to reflect the impact of cyber on all aspects of life.

  • Support the Mach37 Cyber Accelerator located at the Center for Innovative Technology which has launched 40 cyber startups in its first three years of operation.

  • Continue to support efforts to increase penalties for cyber-crime.

  • Increase the frequency and quality of cyber-threat information sharing across agencies and amongst stakeholders.

  • Extend Virginia’s efforts to identify and address challenges related to the Internet of Things and cyber-physical systems.

  • Protect the Commonwealth’s IT infrastructure to insure the safety and sanctity of citizen data and personally identifiable information.

  • Expand efforts (CybervetsVA) to bring cyber employment opportunities to the Commonwealth’s veterans, spouses and National Guard members.

  • Increase efforts to fill the cyber-workforce pipeline and reduce the number of open cyber vacancies.


Become a Worldwide leader in Personalized Medicine


Big Data/Open Data/Data Analytics

  • Expand the Commonwealth’s use of data sharing and analytics to improve citizen outcomes, drive efficiencies, and increase transparency.

  • Expand the Commonwealth’s use of data to help define and provide solutions for challenging socio-economic issues such as opioid addiction, food deserts, etc.

  • Maximize the potential of Virginia’s vast amount of data assets and companies


Extend Virginia’s leadership in autonomous systems

Virginia has been recognized as having an outstanding “pro-autonomy” policy environment for autonomous systems, and we must maintain an “autonomy friendly” policy and regulatory environment for the testing, deployment, and adoption of autonomous technologies across all domains – air, land, and sea. A Northam administration will:

  • Support work being done by the Virginia Center of Excellence for  Unmanned Systems to advance awareness and adoption of autonomous technologies

  • Continue to leverage Virginia’s geographic and technical advantages to expand autonomy related testing and development opportunities.

  • Expand initiatives at educational institutions to build a workforce of skilled individuals who not only can design and operate autonomous vehicles, but also understand the benefits these tools can offer to traditional industries such as agriculture.

  • Increase the use of autonomous vehicles by the Commonwealth’s  agencies to enhance safety and provide efficiencies


Support Early Stage Investments

Supporting early stage investments in high growth companies means keeping venture capital and investment money here in Virginia and not being sent to other states. There are a few key investment funds that have demonstrated important results for Virginia, and which a Northam administration will continue to support, including:

  • As of August 2017 – CIT GAP Funds have invested $22.4 million to help develop 182 high-growth new startups, which were then able to attract an additional $600 million in private equity investments.

  • In just 4 years, the Catalyst (Virginia Biosciences Health Research Corporation) funded $10 million for 24 projects involving 6 VA research universities and 19 industry partners. Resulting in $80 million in follow-on investment and $20 million in private funds.

  • In June 2017, Governor McAuliffe announced $2.7 million in funding to support 40 Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund (CRCF) awards representing targeted areas of promising research commercialization, including advanced manufacturing, cyber security, energy, environment, information technology, life sciences, and unmanned systems.

  • The Virginia Research Investment Fund— which supports collaborative research and commercialization among our universities and industry.

Learn more about Ralph’s technology policy plan here.

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