If West Virginia wants to attract the high-tech employers and federal research dollars it needs to diversify its economy, then the state must develop its science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) talent pipeline, expand the efforts of its research universities, encourage innovation, and help small businesses and high-tech companies grow. Those are the goals set out in Vision 2025: West Virginia Science & Technology Plan (S&T Plan), the strategic plan for science and research that was released today by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.
“As West Virginia’s economy continues to shift and develop, our state must – and does – recognize the need to develop new high-growth industries with higher-paying jobs for West Virginians. Through our new Science & Technology Plan, we have an incredible opportunity over the next five years to bring our higher education community, public partners, businesses, and industries together to attract more external investments that will allow new sectors to grow and thrive. To get there, we must think and act boldly – and I’m confident in our ability to do just that.”Dr. Sarah Armstrong Tucker, West Virginia’s Chancellor for Higher Education
While the plan builds upon several existing initiatives among higher education, industry and government, it also places new activities in the pipeline – including a pilot voucher program that incentivizes research collaborations among West Virginia companies and higher education institutions, along with new opportunities that make the state’s colleges and universities more competitive for larger federal grants. The plan focuses on high-priority platforms that represent growing university-based research and educational activities, and are aligned with West Virginia’s target industries and workforce goals:
- Life Sciences: Neuroscience; Health Sciences; Environmental and Natural Resources; and Agriculture
- Computer and Data Science: Computer Sciences; and Data Science Applications
- Advanced Manufacturing: Chemical and Materials; Transportation; and Civil Infrastructure
- Advanced Energy: Exploration and Production; and Efficiencies and Decarbonization
The development of the S&T Plan also fulfills a key requirement of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), which strongly supports states like West Virginia that have historically lagged in competitiveness for federal research funding.
“The investment of NSF EPSCoR funds and targeted state funding have helped to grow solid university-led research strengths in basic sciences such as physics, astrophysics, biology, genomics, chemistry, materials, and geology,” said Dr. Juliana Serafin, senior director of science and research at the Commission. “We are now poised to promote growth in a diverse range of areas that align with economic development.”
West Virginia Science & Research, a division of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (the Commission), and the Science & Research Council, established by the West Virginia State Legislature in 2009, developed the new S&T Plan with RTI International and Keen Point Consulting. The plan was approved and adopted by the Science & Research Council on April 29, 2021, and by the Commission on June 11, 2021.
The full digital version of Vision 2025: West Virginia Science & Technology Plan is available online now.