The Roanoker - May/June 2020 - 93

M

EREDITH HUNDLEY IS blunt about the intention:
" These are productive collisions. We're trying
to bump into each other. "
" We " includes a litany of organizations
whose primary goal is to invigorate the
region's business and technology climate.
Among them:

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TheRoanoker.com

Virginia Tech's Corporate Research Center (CRC), a
32-year-old technology park that has grown exponentially,
has 36 buildings on 210 acres and 200 companies
employing 3,300 people.
Regional Acceleration and Mentoring Program (RAMP),
mentoring and some funding for developing businesses.
The Advancement Foundation, Innovation Mill, The
Gauntlet, The Hive are Vinton-based interlocked mentors/
funders for startups.
Valleys Innovation Council (VIC), the latest and most
successful iteration of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Innovation
Network, helping create an innovation ecosystem.
The Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority legislation
had passed and will now await the governor's signature.
Its intent is to " support the entire life cycle of innovation
from transitional research, to entrepreneurship, to preseed and seed stage funding, acceleration, growth and
commercialization ... " The program is expected to " assist
... in identifying entrepreneurial strengths, including the
identification of talents and resources ... "
Small Business Development Councils (SBDC) help
startups find their footing.
CoLab, business and co-working space in the Raleigh
Court area of Roanoke.
Area colleges have become leaders in working with the
business community, especially the community colleges.

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GoVA, a state fund for innovation that has been
consolidated and dispensed regionally by business
influencers.
Hundley is chief program officer for the Valleys
Innovation Council (VIC), an outcropping of several
false-start predecessors and one that seems to have
finally gotten it right.

She uses Torc, a Blacksburg company with 120 employees
whose genesis dates to 2005, as the best example. Several Virginia
Tech graduate students competed on an international stage in
an Intelligent Ground Vehicle competition, which they swept,
ultimately winning a $1 million grant, leading to Torc's founding.
Torc, from Day 1, has been an international leader in selfdriving truck technology and although Daimler had 1,000
workers in Stuttgart, Germany, working on that, it bought a
majority stake in Torc in March of 2019 in order to find success
in that area, says Greg Feldman, director of VIC.
Torc, Hundley says, " is the poster child for what we're trying
to do. ... It is our regional unicorn. "
Hundley says the ultimate goal is to " work together because
we have a shared purpose. It creates a smooth pathway to a
sturdy, solid technology component of the region's economy, one
that is staying abreast of national trends. If we do the ecosystem
right, we create more stories like Torc. "

The Money Challenge

Money is flowing from a number of sources but remains the
most significant problem overall. Much of the infrastructure
is in place and is growing. President/CEO Joe Meredith who
joined the young Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg in
1997, found four buildings and a few scattered employees at

MAY/JUNE 2020

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The Roanoker - May/June 2020

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The Roanoker - May/June 2020 - Cover3
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