Innovation Campus — conceptual rendering

Since its announcement in June 2019, Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus in Alexandria, Virginia, has developed steadily, and university staff and outside organizations alike are anticipating its progress.

The campus is on schedule to be completed in 2024 and will house hundreds of master’s degree and doctoral students. Along with the plans, postdoctoral fellows will join the master’s students on campus.

“Feedback to plans for the campus has been overwhelmingly positive, both in media coverage of the official site announcement back in June and from alumni and our various internal and external stakeholders,” said Michael Stowe, Virginia Tech media relations director.

Virginia Tech must wait for a design contract before it can begin to construct the first 300,000-square-foot academic building. First, the Request For Proposal (RFP) was released to provide full design services for the building July 11. Then, 175 firms met in Crystal City, Virginia, Aug. 1 to hear publicly about the university’s RFP, and written proposals were due Aug. 13.

“It speaks volumes that the Aug. 1 RFP meeting solicited a packed room of 175 different firms interested in learning more about the Innovation Campus and wanting to be involved in the project in some way,” Stowe said.

The university is hopeful to award the design contract in late 2019 and have the first wave of Innovation Campus students by fall semester 2020. Classes will meet in an adjacent space to the campus.

Stowe also expressed the “important priority” that the university is open-minded and clear with the plans in the continuing processes. “We’re making sure we’re transparent with our planning — from holding public meetings to solicit public comment throughout the stages of campus development,” he said.

“We do know that a survey completed by students who accepted offers of admission indicated that Virginia Tech’s growing national reputation for academic and research excellence played a role in increasing development,” Stowe said, explaining how the university has changed since the plans were announced. “Our growing national profile can be attributed in part to the increased national and Washington D.C. media coverage of the Innovation Campus.”

The origins of the Innovation Campus began several years ago with Virginia Tech’s and President Tim Sands’ strategic plan that wished to have a bold presence in Washington D.C. and in Virginia’s technology industry.

“The Innovation Campus will spark discoveries and transform Northern Virginia and the entire D.C. metro area into a leading magnet for tech talent and innovation,” Stowe said. “It will create the tech-talent pipeline outlined in the state’s proposal to Amazon.”

Additionally, as a part of the university’s plan to play a role in Virginian technology, the campus will feature incubator spaces for new startups and researchers, offices for industry collaboration, and classrooms for instruction.

A longtime supporter of Virginia Tech in metro D.C., Sanju Bansal spoke via live-stream from the future spot of the campus at Sands’ State of the University address in September. Bansal is an entrepreneur who has co-founded and directed technology and business companies.

“We’re confident that the Innovation Campus will help grow the regional economy,” Bansal said. “It will help us compete with tech hubs in Boston, Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas, that have had great university support to grow their ecosystems.”

In his address, Sands stated that Northern Virginia is missing a vital part of what certain tech hubs do have: a digital economy that simultaneously acts as a product economy. A digital, service-based economy is the kind Northern Virginia has developed in the past, and Virginia Tech is eager to be a part of a new technological market.

“The outsized growth that you get from product companies that you see in Boston or Silicon Valley, we don’t actually have in this region,” Bansal said. “I’m really confident that having more computer science graduates coming out of the Innovation Campus and feeding into the local economy will spur more product innovation, and I’m hopeful that we’ll grow the next Microsofts and Googles right here in our backyard.”

Outside of Virginia Tech, George Mason University has decided to build graduate-level programs in Northern Virginia, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch in January 2019. GMU is hopeful to build the Institute for Digital Innovation and the School of Computing after the university raises $125,000,000. “It’s about creating an ecosystem that allows these new technologies to thrive in Virginia,” Del. Nick Rush told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Rush, who represents Floyd and portions of Montgomery and Pulaski Counties in Virginia’s seventh House of Delegates district and is a leader in higher education in Virginia, is pushing the importance of large-scale development projects to help create the next generation of those in technological careers.

“(The purpose is) to make sure our young people find good jobs and can live out their lives in the Commonwealth, not Silicon Valley,” Rush said to Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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