Boosting Tulsa: $51M for Autonomous Tech Revolution

Tulsa, Oklahoma, is emerging as a significant player in the tech industry, thanks to a substantial boost from the Biden-Harris administration and the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). The city has been awarded approximately $51 million to enhance its capabilities in autonomous systems, a move that is part of a broader initiative aimed at strengthening national and economic security through technological innovation. Tulsa is one of 12 regions to receive the prestigious Tech Hub designation, positioning it as a potential leader in the global tech landscape.

The Tulsa Hub for Equitable and Trustworthy Autonomy (THETA) spearheads this initiative. Managed by Tulsa Innovation Labs, THETA comprises a consortium of over 75 partners from both public and private sectors. These partners include influential organizations such as the Osage Nation, Cherokee Nation, Black Tech Street, as well as educational institutions like Oklahoma State University and The University of Tulsa. Jennifer Hankins, managing director of Tulsa Innovation Labs, highlighted the city’s preparedness to lead in this new era of industrial innovation. Echoing this sentiment, other key stakeholders view this investment as transformative for the region.

The $51 million award represents more than just financial support; it is a strategic investment in the future of U.S. economic competitiveness and national security. Autonomous systems, encompassing uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS), autonomous vehicles, drones, and robotics, have diverse applications ranging from agriculture and pipeline inspections to regional transportation and defense. Chuck Garrett, CEO of Cherokee Nation Businesses, emphasized the project’s potential to expand into autonomous systems and component manufacturing, aligning with the Cherokee Nation’s approach to improving the lives of its citizens and bolstering the regional economy of northeastern Oklahoma.

One of the most promising aspects of this initiative is its potential to generate up to 56,000 new jobs over the next decade. These opportunities will be equitable, ensuring that the benefits of technological advancements are accessible to all. This is particularly significant in a region that has historically faced economic challenges. Tyrance Billingsley II, founder of Black Tech Street, views this as an opportunity to reinvigorate Black Wall Street into the world’s premier Black innovation economy. The Greenwood AI/AS Center of Excellence (G-ACE), located in the Historic Greenwood District, aims to catalyze Black wealth creation in the Greater Tulsa Region and beyond.

The funding will support six key projects designed to advance autonomous technologies:

1. Commercialization Strategies: Enhancing coordination between universities and startups to accelerate the commercialization of new technologies.
2. Testing and Simulation Environment: Developing a state-of-the-art facility focused on cyber and data management to address barriers to commercial adoption.
3. Manufacturing Demonstration Center: Creating programs to help small companies scale their capabilities in the autonomous systems supply chain.
4. AI Center of Excellence: Expanding opportunities for underserved communities to engage with cutting-edge technology.
5. Workforce Development: Aligning training programs with industry needs and providing upskilling and on-the-job training opportunities.
6. Governance Structures: Establishing frameworks to execute projects, secure additional funding, and drive the Tech Hub’s strategy.

The success of this initiative hinges on the collaborative efforts of its diverse partners. Ken Levit, executive director of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, emphasized the importance of a diverse, resilient, and inclusive industry base. Such inclusiveness ensures that the benefits of technological advancements are widely shared. Russell Goff, CEO of Osage LLC, expressed excitement about continuing their collaboration with THETA partners through projects like the SAFE-T project, which aims to create additional research and development opportunities.

The advancements in autonomous technologies supported by this funding are crucial for the future of U.S. economic competitiveness and national security. Whether it involves protecting Americans on the battlefield or delivering medicine to rural communities, these innovations promise to make a significant impact. The funding ensures that these technological advancements are “Tested and Made in Tulsa, USA.”

Tulsa’s $51 million award from the EDA is more than just a financial windfall; it is a transformative investment in the city’s future. With a robust history of innovation and a diverse coalition of partners, Tulsa is well-positioned to become a global leader in autonomous technologies. This initiative promises to create thousands of new jobs, drive economic growth, and enhance national security, making Tulsa a beacon of technological advancement in the heartland of America. Learn more about THETA and see a full list of partners at TechHubTulsa.com.

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