The University of South Florida is leading an expansive effort to help Tampa Bay secure the federal designation of Cybersecurity and Technology Innovation Hub — a prolific indicator of the region’s potential for rapid technology-led economic growth.
With USF as the lead applicant, the Greater Tampa Bay Regional Technology Hub Consortium has applied to become one of at least 20 designated tech hubs across the country that will receive approximately $15 million in funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to accelerate the development of its future tech hub. The consortium represents 45 partner organizations from Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Hernando Counties.
“The University of South Florida is focused on filling the talent pipeline for the Tampa Bay region’s employers and meeting the state’s workforce needs in high-demand fields such as cybersecurity,” said USF President Rhea Law. “The designation of our region as a technology and innovation hub would allow us to accelerate our efforts and position Tampa Bay as a global leader in these important areas.”
Described on the EDA website as “an economic development initiative designed to drive regional technology- and innovation-centric growth by strengthening a region’s capacity to manufacture, commercialize, and deploy critical technologies,” the Tech Hubs Program was enacted as part of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022.
“USF is well-positioned to foster a burgeoning cybersecurity industry ecosystem to serve Tampa Bay and the nation,” said Sylvia Thomas, vice president of USF Research & Innovation and CEO/president of the USF Research Foundation.
USF is home to the Global and National Security Institute, offers academic programs in cybersecurity, partners with Cyber Florida, local cybersecurity firms and innovation districts, and conducts research with the U.S. military at MacDill Air Force Base. In 2021, Forbes named Tampa one of the five “most up and coming tech cities”, noting that it was responsible for over 25 percent of Florida’s tech jobs.
“The Tampa Bay Tech Hub is also interested in expanding educational, entrepreneurial and employment opportunities for underserved communities,” said Thomas, noting USF’s connections with National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense at several historically black colleges and universities.
“The Tampa Bay Tech Hub will rely on partnerships to stimulate economic growth and create new jobs in the cybersecurity sector,” said consortium member Ernest Ferraresso, director of Cyber Florida. “Collaboration is required across a range of stakeholders, including industry, academia, and government to explore new technologies and solutions that can be applied to emerging cybersecurity challenges.”
Once selected, the Economic Development Administration will invite the 20 designated tech hubs to apply for a second round of funding. Between three and eight of them will be awarded a total of $50-$75 million and recognized as national tech hubs advancing the global technological competitiveness of the United States.