By Tim Ryan

The Boost Platform workshop, a collaboration between the DOE’s Sandia National Laboratories and the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, recently drew a diverse crowd to the Virginia Peninsula Chamber’s conference space. More than 40 professionals from various sectors came together, their goal singular yet expansive: to harness deep tech for community advancement.

The workshop, spearheaded by Sandia’s Kelli Howie and Mary Monson, marked a pivotal moment in the region’s efforts to bridge the gap between high-tech national labs and local business needs. The Boost Platform is not just an initiative; it’s a burgeoning movement funded by the DOE’s Technology Commercialization Fund. Its unique community-first approach seeks to understand local needs and tailor technological solutions that can make a tangible difference.

At the heart of the event was a collaborative spirit, with participants breaking into groups to brainstorm how technology and innovation could tackle local challenges. The discussions were vibrant, with ideas ranging from enhancing regional branding to leveraging Hampton Roads’ extensive nuclear expertise. Themes of talent retention and environmental disparities were also prominent, highlighting the community’s broad vision for its future.

The concept of “high fences” – literal and metaphorical barriers to information sharing – was a recurring theme. Participants noted that while these barriers can protect, they also isolate. The Boost Platform aims to dismantle these barriers, fostering an open exchange of ideas and technologies that could revolutionize local businesses’ operations and thrive.

Local connections were at the forefront of the initiative. Jefferson Lab and 13 other national labs actively participate in the Boost Platform, which was launched in 2023 in partnership with Virginia-based venture firm FedTech. This program targets explicitly underserved communities, offering a lifeline to entrepreneurs without access to cutting-edge technologies.

Significantly, the workshop identified several key areas where local innovations could profoundly impact, including transportation, logistics, maritime operations, and workforce upskilling. These discussions are not just theoretical but a precursor to actionable strategies to bring these ideas to life.

Moreover, the Boost Platform creates sustainable pathways for commercializing lab-developed technologies. By the end of the Newport News workshop, numerous promising connections had been made, paving the way for future collaborations that could lead to substantial local and regional transformations.

In conclusion, the Boost Platform workshop in Hampton Roads exemplified innovation and collaboration. It demonstrates how targeted interventions, driven by a deep understanding of local needs and supported by national resources, can catalyze significant economic and social advancements. As this initiative continues to unfold, the potential for transformative impact in Hampton Roads and beyond is immense and inspiring.