Montana receives federal tech hub funding from the Department of Commerce - TAI News
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Laboratory researcher in the process of assembling a neuromorphic processor based on a photonic integrated circuit that allows computations at the speed of light. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Department of Commerce announced on July 2 that Montana has been designated one of 12 tech hubs across the United States and will receive a federal grant to be used to create jobs and spur technological innovation.

The Headwaters Regional Technology and Innovation Hub in western Montana will receive $41 million to be used in five projects primarily focused in the field of photonics. Photonics is the use of light in technological products, including fiber optic cables, that are used to deliver high-speed internet, computer and television screens, and lasers, among other applications.

The hub will use some of the funding to train Montana residents, with a focus on rural and Native American communities, for future careers in technology fields.

The department also announced that 11 other regional tech hubs across the country would receive funding, following the official tech hub status designation in 2023.

The Tech Hubs Program was created by the 2022 CHIPS and Science Act and aimed at  expanding America’s role in global technology manufacturing and innovation to compete with other nations, especially China.

Democratic Sen. Jon Tester was a member of the bipartisan Senate committee that negotiated in Congress over the language of the bill. Tester backed an amendment that called for rural regions of the country to be considered as sites during the tech hub selection process, and the text was included in the bill in May 2021.

“I’m proud that my amendment guaranteeing rural America will have a seat at the table when it comes to a new innovation hub, was added to the legislation with support from Republicans and Democrats,” Tester said in a statement following the amendment’s passage.

In 2023, Tester hosted a roundtable discussion in Missoula with representatives of Montana tech companies, universities, and business incubators to discuss the state’s bid for a tech hub.

Tester sent a request to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in March 2023 urging the department to back Montana’s tech hub proposal. He stressed that a proposal from a rural state should not be discounted against proposals from more urban regions.The Montana bid made it through the selection process and was one of 31 successful bids out of a total of 198 that were submitted to the department.

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