The bold move to create the Innovation Campus is in keeping with Virginia Tech’s longstanding emphasis on promoting economic development across the commonwealth as part of its land-grant mission that dates back nearly 150 years.

For example, in partnership with Carilion Clinic, the university created a research institute and school of medicine in Roanoke, which in 2017 added more than $200 million in economic output to Virginia’s economy. Expansion of the Virginia Tech Carilion Health Science and Technology Campus in Roanoke is under way, and economic output is projected to reach $465 million in 2026.

“The importance of Virginia Tech and Carilion in securing a bright future for Roanoke cannot be overstated,” said Heywood Fralin, chair of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and a lifelong resident of Roanoke. “It’s great to see Virginia Tech continue to thrive, grow, and expand its focus on innovation and research. I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact Virginia Tech has had on the City of Roanoke and Southwest Virginia through its investment in economic development in our region. That impact is indicative of what Alexandria has to look forward to in the years ahead.”

Brandy Salmon and Tim Sands
Brandy Salmon, who will serve as chief operating officer for the Innovation Campus, speaks with Virginia Tech President Tim Sands.

Virginia Tech is already a community member in Alexandria with the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center, the urban extension of the university’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies, located in the city’s Old Town section. With the growing presence and proximity of the new Innovation Campus, the university will make a greater impact on the city and in the surrounding area.

“Alexandria’s future has never been brighter,” said Mayor-elect Justin Wilson. “We welcome the new and stimulating impact of the graduate campus and Amazon. We enthusiastically entered into the memorandum of agreement with Virginia Tech and look forward to deepening our partnership. Ever since the university opened the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center in 1980, Virginia Tech has been an important member of our community.”

A powerful partner

Virginia Tech’s teamwork with Carilion Clinic in establishing a research institute and medical school highlights how the university often leverages partnerships to make a greater impact than it could alone.

“Collaborative partnerships that span cultures and disciplines, such as science and health care, can solve vexing problems by converging on solutions from different perspectives. Such a partnership between Virginia Tech’s biomedical science enterprise and Carilion Clinic’s health care system on the Health Sciences and Technology Campus in Roanoke has already created new paths to discovery and implementation at the very boundaries of these cultures and disciplines,” said Michael Friedlander, executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and Virginia Tech’s vice president for health sciences and technology. “We all benefit when there is awareness and an embracement of such collaborative enterprises. In fact, the VTCRI has embodied those attributes through close collaborations not only with its clinical partner, Carilion, but also through deep scientific, programmatic, and personal connections with Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus and its National Capital Region as well. The opportunities for extending this success and enhancing innovation in the health sciences and technology space, particularly through growth in the health data and analytical sciences, will increase substantially from connections with the Innovation Campus.”

Michael Friedlander
Michael Friedlander serves as executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and vice president for health sciences and technology.

When Block.one Chief Technology Officer Dan Larimer reached out to Virginia Tech to help develop a pipeline of talent in blockchain technologies, the university responded. The university is developing a curriculum and adding faculty expertise in response to the surging impact of blockchain technology in the world economy.

“Virginia Tech understood the challenge and embraced the opportunity,” said Larimer, a Virginia Tech alumnus. “Amazon and others will soon learn what a great partner Virginia Tech is. Its response — and results — are precisely what companies need today from higher education.”

U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith’s district includes Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus.

“Today’s news that Amazon chose Virginia for a new headquarters will have a positive economic impact across the state with strong support for Southwest Virginia and Virginia Tech in Blacksburg,” Griffith said. “The state-supported higher-ed package includes critical funds for a new business and data analytics complex to meet a strategic need for the undergraduate education experience. Virginia has an amazing partner in Virginia Tech.”

U.S. Representative Morgan Griffth
U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith speaks at a Virginia Tech event in the Washington, D.C. region. Griffith's district includes Virginia Tech's Blacksburg campus.

The complete pipeline

The Innovation Campus’ proximity to the nation’s global center of power and influence will allow Virginia Tech to collaborate with leading businesses, K-12 schools, community colleges, academic peers, industry partners, and a vibrant alumni network to ensure a robust pipeline of technology talent for generations to come.

Steve Mollenkopf, chief executive officer of the telecommunications company Qualcomm Inc., said the new Alexandria campus reflects Virginia Tech’s commitment to STEM education overall. Three years ago, Qualcomm and Virginia Tech partnered to open the Thinkabit Lab in Falls Church. Since that time, more than 5,300 students and teachers, primarily from underrepresented communities in the Washington, D.C., area, have participated in hands-on programs in electronics and computer programming.

Said Mollenkopf, a Virginia Tech alumnus, “There is a critical need to increase the United States’ ability to maintain its leadership in the development of next generation technologies, such as 5G, at unprecedented scale, speed, and complexity. Virginia Tech understands that one facet of maintaining this leadership is the development of talent. The university is uniquely positioned to build an inclusive and diverse campus for collaboration across industry, government, and academia — including K-12 schools and community colleges — to help fill that need.”

Virginia Tech’s plan to grow its presence in Northern Virginia is exciting news for the entire state, said Stephen Moret, president and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, based in Richmond.

“Virginia’s biggest employment growth opportunity in the years ahead will be in tech – from artificial intelligence to cloud computing to cybersecurity, and everything in between,” Moret said. “Our success in growing the tech sector will be inextricably linked to our success in developing, attracting, and retaining world-class tech talent. Today’s announcements, by Amazon and Virginia Tech, highlight just how important higher education is to that equation. In a knowledge-driven economy, competitiveness and success depend on universities being willing to step forward to do even more. Virginia Tech has done exactly that.”

Virginia Tech is involved in multiple programs that engage K-12 students from around the state to inspire and prepare them for high-tech fields.

“We are working to strengthen our existing partnerships with K-12 schools and community colleges across Virginia to ensure students from all populations are prepared to attend and succeed at a top research university like Virginia Tech or our sister universities,” said Bevlee Watford, associate dean for academic affairs and director of the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity in Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering. “Launching our new campus will amplify our impact in this area, for the benefit of our state as a whole.”