With one of his first executive orders, Gov. Terry McAuliffe created a commission to study the state’s cyber-risks and how to build the industry in Virginia. He re-upped that commission earlier this year.

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Virginia legislature’s Joint Commission on Technology and Science nanosatellite technology subcommittee heard a consortium pitch last month to spend $4 million a year to seed this industry. Photo Credit : FLICKR/TACOPHISH05

“Virginia is taking a hard look at advanced technology — how it fosters it, uses it, regulates it and reacts to it.”

New state policies on police body camera use are under development, with a state panel writing rules for what gets recorded, how long the video is stored and who gets to see it. They’re thinking, too, about how to pay for the massive amount of digital video storage needed as cameras proliferate.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe works a cybersecurity mention into just about every speech he can. He created a commission to study the state’s cyber-risks, and how to build the industry in Virginia, with one of his first executive orders. He re-upped that commission earlier this year.

State leaders have gone a few rounds over drones, eventually ending the state’s moratorium and settling on rules that generally require a warrant for government use.

And a legislative subcommittee is looking at nanosatellites.

That’s right, nanosatellites. They’re exactly what they sound like, if you think they sound like devices that weigh between 22 and 2.2 pounds and get launched into space.

This is a growing field of affordable satellite technology, and with NASA Langley and NASA Wallops in Virginia, the Virginia Space Grant Consortium thinks Virginia can cash in. If, that is, it puts the cash up first.

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Last year 158 nano or microsatellites — which can weigh up to 220 pounds — got launched, 72 percent more than the year before, according to a recent consortium presentation.

The legislature’s Joint Commission on Technology and Science nanosatellite technology subcommittee heard a consortium pitch last month to spend $4 million a year to seed this industry.

The program would be similar to “The Catalyst,” which the state stood up two years ago to focus on the biotechnology industry.

These efforts don’t just dole out grants, which range from $200,000 to $800,000 in The Catalyst’s case. They draw university researchers together, along with the private sector. Virginia’s universities have a lot of autonomy by design, which has its benefits but can also stymie cooperation, state leaders and industry insiders have said.

There is also talk of a similar program to accelerate cybersecurity in Virginia. The market may be demanding more and more online security, Telos Corp. CEO John Wood said, but “research dollars are tough to come by.”

Wood is on McAuliffe’s cybersecurity commission. To make Virginia the industry leader, as McAuliffe often calls for, requires multilevel focus, Wood said. An educated workforce is key.

Only 1,655 students took the AP computer science exam in 2013. Since then, the General Assembly has changed state graduation requirements, ensuring that computer science counts toward a high school diploma.

It will also take “just a ton more money behind all the talk,” Wood said.

“We haven’t actually suggested (an amount),” Wood said of the commission. “(We need) a race for cyber akin to how we had the race to the moon.”

The state already has Mach-37, a cybersecurity accelerator program focused on building partnerships, as well as raising private sector money. The current state budget includes up to $2 million in funding for the program if private sector goals aren’t hit.

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As for nanosatellites, legislators seemed interested in the prospects last month, but asked the Virginia Space Grant Consortium to come back with more information. Focus, they said, on the potential economic impact.

Subcommittee members made it clear that new program funding, even with state revenues trending up, will be tough to come by. That may be particularly true if there are competing efforts on the science and technology front.

©2015 the Daily Press (Newport News, Va.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

This feature originally appeared in GovTech.

 


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