HudsonAlpha, Huntsville Bioscience Companies Headline BIO Alabama Conference

With the biotechnology industry leading the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, BIO Alabama will host industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and academics at the organization’s first conference in five years.

HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology and a number of resident associate companies will be “center-stage” during the four-day virtual conference, Oct. 5-9.

BIO Alabama – Alabama’s affiliate of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), the pre-eminent national association for biotechnology companies – has assembled a lineup from Alabama and across the country to address the industry’s most challenging issues and how the state can play pivotal roles in solutions and advancements.

Among the topics are: Operation Warp Speed; COVID-19 related legislation; the strategic roadmap for the state’s biotechnology ecosystem; collaborative efforts to strengthen the state’s agricultural economy; diversity, equity and inclusion in the bioscience industry; and discoveries by researchers at Alabama’s leading academic centers.

“HudsonAlpha has been a longtime partner and leader for BIO Alabama and the biotechnology ecosystem in North Alabama continues to bloom with innovative companies,” said BIO Alabama Executive Director Sonia Robinson. “Our virtual conference is a great opportunity to connect with life science thought-leaders from around our state who are strengthening our industry for the future.”

The speakers are leaders in academic research, education and business. HudsonAlpha and Huntsville contribute greatly to the state’s work in the biosciences and are well-represented in the BIO Alabama agenda.

HudsonAlpha Faculty Investigator Jeremy Schmutz will lead a panel discussion that includes Dr. Josh Clevinger, also of HudsonAlpha; Brian Hardin with Alabama Farmers Federation; Kyle Bridgeforth of Bridgeforth Farms; and Dr. Kira Bowen from Auburn University.

The group will discuss its efforts in developing next generation crops for diversifying and strengthening Alabama’s agricultural economy. The panel will provide an early view into the way people from across the state and across industries are leveraging HudsonAlpha’s expertise in genomics research to improve crops for Alabama farmers and ultimately benefit businesses and consumers in the state.

Carter Wells, HudsonAlpha’s Vice President for Economic Development and past Chairman of BIO Alabama, will lead a “fireside chat” with Andrew Burnett, health legislative assistant for Sen. Richard Shelby. Burnett is Shelby’s aide for federal appropriations and policy on a variety of health-related topics, including coronavirus relief, clinical trials, diagnostic testing and the development of new medications and therapies. Burnett also works with biotech entrepreneurs and veterans of bioscience businesses.

HudsonAlpha Director of Recruitment Amy Sturdivant, BIO Alabama Executive Director Sonia Robinson and Chairman Blair King will deliver the BIO Alabama’s strategic plan. The address concludes a multi-year listening tour and focus-group exercises to develop a strategic roadmap for the industry. Sturdivant will join BIO Alabama Executive Director Sonia Robinson and Chairman Blair King in delivering the report to BIO Alabama constituents.

“Growing and supporting entrepreneurial efforts in the biotech industry have translated to success stories and expanding jobs in the sector,” said Sturdivant, who also serves as BIO Alabama vice chairwoman. “Organizations across the state are contributing and collaborating; providing resources for capital, mentoring, workforce training, and more.

“The BIO Alabama strategic plan lays out lessons learned and opportunities we will seek together.”

Alex Cate, Business Retention and Expansion Specialist for HudsonAlpha, will join panelists from the state’s top incubators and accelerators to discuss business growth and technology commercialization.

Additionally, several North Alabama-based and HudsonAlpha resident companies will be featured at the conference.

To register, visit https://www.bioalabama.com/event-3976946

 

Boeing Awarded $249M Modified Contract for Huntsville-Managed Missile Program

Boeing of Huntsville has been awarded a $249 million contract modification for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense System.

Huntsville is the headquarters for Boeing’s Missile and Weapon Systems division and the company employs more than 3,000 people across the state. As prime contractor, Boeing designs, produces, integrates, tests and sustains all GMD components deployed across 15 time zones.

The contract modification work includes development, fielding, test, systems engineering, integration and configuration management, equipment manufacturing and refurbishment, training and operations and sustainment for the system and its support facilities. Work will be performed in Huntsville; Tucson and Chandler, Ariz.

The GMD system is the nation’s only operationally deployed missile defense program capable of defending the entire United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) against long-range ballistic missile attacks.

 

 

We Like It! Facebook’s Huntsville Data Center is a Boost to the Local Economy

Facebook’s Huntsville Data Center has helped foster economic growth locally since breaking ground in 2018.

The data center, which is scheduled to go online next year, represents more than a $750 million investment, employed hundreds of construction jobs and supports more than 200 jobs. The 970,000 square-foot facility is in the North Huntsville Industrial Park.

Facebook released a study Thursday on the economic contributions of Facebook data centers in the U.S. from 2017-2019. The study, in partnership with RTI International, finds Facebook’s investments through capital expenditures, operating expenses and direct wages in data centers totaled $11.5 billion, contributed a cumulative $18.6 billion to the U.S. GDP and supported more than 178,000 jobs nationwide.

“We are proud to invest $750 million into Huntsville, but even prouder to see how our investments spur further economic benefits for the area especially during this tough economic climate,” said Katie Comer, Facebook Community Development Manager. “Our data center investments go beyond economic growth to benefit the local environment and community.”

Facebook has eight operating data centers across the U.S. with five more under construction. The data centers host videos, photos, and news articles found on Facebook news feeds.

The study does not include that in 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and mass layoffs, Facebook announced more than 4.8 million square feet of new data center construction in the U.S.

Results of the study show that for every $1 million in data center capital expenditures, there were 14 jobs supported in the area, and for every $1 million in data center operating expenditures, 18 jobs were supported.

Facebook also made more than 300 charitable investments from 2017-2019 that focused on putting the power of technology for community benefit and improving local Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education.

As part of its COVID-19 relief efforts, Facebook supported Madison County Schools to help provide access to remote learning including laptops, Wi-Fi hotspots, Wi-Fi buses, and support for continued food programs for students.

The study also estimates that Facebook data centers have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by over 3 million tons since 2011, the equivalent of taking over 660,000 cars off the road.

The company partnered with the Tennessee Valley Authority to create an energy tariff that will let qualifying customers, not just Facebook, buy renewable resources. Solar energy projects will be developed to support the Huntsville Data Center.

Toyota Revs Up E-Learning Support in Madison County With Donation, Launch of Virtual Learning Hub

As virtual learning continues across the area, many students are still in need of laptops and Internet access to complete schoolwork. 

To help meet the need, Huntsville City Schools, Madison City Schools and Madison County Schools will receive $200,000 from the Toyota USA Foundation for devices and Internet access to help students with distance learning. 

“This is an exciting announcement for schools, teachers and students across our community,” said Elizabeth Fleming, The Schools Foundation Executive Director. “COVID-19 has strained school budgets tremendously as districts plan for in-person and remote learning for more than 55,000 students.

“The silver lining is seeing the community support for our schools and Toyota has been a tremendous partner in education from day one.” 

The funding announced today is part of a national effort to help more than 350,000 students gain access to virtual learning in 13 states where Toyota has operations. 

“All students deserve equal access to education,” said April Mason, Toyota Alabama general manager. “The foundation typically supports STEM, but the pandemic has exposed deeper issues that are a barrier to good education.” 

Toyota also debuted an education hub, providing virtual tours, fields trips, STEM-based lessons, and more. The community can virtually visit Toyota Alabama and step into the future to discover how Toyota is building a mobile society. 

Education hub resources are free and available to the public by visiting Tour Toyota Education Hub

Regions Grant Gives KTECH’s Virtual Reality Workforce Initiative Real-Life Implications

Virtual reality goes real-time at KTECH thanks to a $42,000 grant from the Regions Foundation, the nonprofit initiative of Regions Bank. The money will fund virtual reality equipment for KTECH’s new Virtual Reality Workforce Development Training initiative.

Founder and CEO Lee Marshall formed KTECH as the workforce training and development arm of her Kids to Love Foundation. Because workforce readiness is a top priority for Regions Bank, its initiatives naturally align with KTECH.

“It has never been more important to connect with people wherever they are,” said Marta Self, executive director of the Regions Foundation. “That’s exactly what VR does, and what KTECH is doing. This is about empowering students with new tools to help them prepare for successful and rewarding careers.”

The grant is an extension of Region’s work to prepare people in Huntsville and Madison County for advanced manufacturing and high-tech jobs.

KTECH introduced the use of virtual reality technology this summer amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as a 3D Virtual Tour recruitment tool. Students were able to explore KTECH’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) facilities while living under stay-at-home orders.

It introduced a new way of seeing what KTECH is about and gave virtual viewers an up-close look at instructors demonstrating how the equipment works. It also shows the instructors conducting KTECH training, so it puts the student right there in the workplace and classroom.

KTECH has been on the edge of innovation. It targets foster kids who have aged out of the foster care system, and also is a training vehicle for anyone in the community who can use the skills, including veterans.

They offer hands-on, interactive, one-on-one instruction and certification training in mechatronics, robotics, soldering and solid edge modeling. All four skills are in high demand in the advanced manufacturing industry.

After students receive their certification, KTECH connects its graduates with good-paying jobs in the manufacturing sector.

Now VR is incorporated into the Mechatronics classes, further enhancing the student’s classroom experience in preparation for future careers.

VR technology creates a 3D simulated environment that prepares students for a range of vocational and tech-based careers. Students can both learn a STEAM skill and experience the job environment in which they will find themselves upon completion. It supplements in-person training with remote learning from anywhere.

“Students use VR headsets to experience face-to-face interactions with realistic avatars for a more immersive experience in learning than workers have ever been able to do before,” said Marshall. “During COVID-19, we knew we had to pivot to propel our students forward, and Virtual Reality was the obvious choice.

“Cutting-edge virtual reality technology is used throughout KTECH and helps students pursue self-guided discovery in areas such as mechatronics, hands-on skills development, and more.”

According to several career-oriented websites, VR is ranked in the top five fastest growing technology careers, alongside cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.

“We are thankful the Regions Foundation sees how this Virtual Reality technology will advance our KTECH students,” said Marshall. “Putting state-of-the-art technology into the palm of a student’s hand, no matter where they are, is critical to the learning and workforce training process. Adapting and expanding digital offerings allows KTECH to grow in a ‘post-COVID’ world, preparing the workforce of the future.”

Sean Kelly, Huntsville market executive for Regions Bank. said, as the local economy recovers from COVID-19, more companies will discover the positive workforce climate available in Huntsville.

“KTECH and the Virtual Reality program will serve as important components to the success of the Tennessee Valley,” said Kelly. “We all benefit – individuals, businesses and communities – when we ensure the workforce is trained, prepared and ready to succeed.”

 

Huntsville Chosen to Test Google Fiber’s 2-Gig Service

Google Fiber is looking for a few good people to test its new 2-Gig service.

According to a blog from Google Fiber’s Amalia O’Sullivan, director of product management, the company is testing the service next month in Huntsville and Nashville.

“Game changers, super users, and families who need more from their internet can join the Google Fiber Trusted Tester program to be among the first to put the extra speed to use,” O’Sullivan wrote. “Our testers help us make sure we’re launching the best products and services possible for our customers, and we appreciate their help!”

To apply to be a Trusted Tester (having a Google Fiber account is required), visit https://goo.gle/2GzPgau

The 2-Gig service costs $100 per month, that includes a new Wi-Fi router and Wi-Fi mesh extender. Google Fiber’s 1-Gig service is $70 per month.

O’Sullivan wrote the demand has increased due to the number of people working from home and students taking classes online because of the pandemic.

“This year has made this need for more speed and bandwidth especially acute, as many of us are now living our entire lives — from work to school to play — within our homes, creating unprecedented demand for internet capacity,” she wrote. “At $100 a month, it’s double the top download speed of our 1 Gig product (with the same great upload speed) and comes with a new Wi-Fi 6 router and mesh extender, so everyone gets a great online experience no matter where they are in the house.”

O’Sullivan said 2 Gig will roll out to all of Google Fiber’s Nashville and Huntsville customers this year, with plans to launch the service across most of the company’s Google Fiber and Google Fiber Webpass cities in early 2021.

 

Intersect Development Group Moving Forward on $35M Huntsville 565 Logistics Project

Atlanta-based Intersect Development Group has closed on a 47-acre tract for three buildings in a planned 400,000 square-foot industrial park.

The Huntsville 565 Logistics project will have a ground-breaking in the fall. The first phase of 144,500 square feet is scheduled to be completed in 2021. The Huntsville 565 Logistics park expects to be home to more than 300 workers and represents an investment of some $35 million.

The facility is designed to meet the needs of the growing e-commerce industry and local logistical/service requirements.

The site is adjacent to GE Aviation, the Target distribution center, Polaris Manufacturing and the Mazda Toyota plant.

“This is an exciting time for the Huntsville business community and its workers who will benefit from this new investment,” Intersect founding partner Scott Brown. “With the closing process completed, we look forward to beginning construction quickly and developing this new Class ‘A’ business park that will support hundreds of jobs in the local community.”

SAIC Adding Innovation Factory Hub

SAIC is adding an Innovation Factory Hub to its Huntsville site, expanding its presence and support to local customers.

This marks the latest expansion of SAIC’s Innovation Factory network where the Department of Defense and other federal government agencies can evaluate new technologies and accelerate delivery of modernized systems.

SAIC’s Innovation Factory is a nationwide network of physical and virtual environments to quickly build, test, and deploy solutions and then enhance them through customer collaboration. Innovation Factory hubs connect SAIC’s innovators and toolsets, startups/tech companies, and the customer.

The Huntsville Innovation Factory Hub will be integrated into SAIC’s Innovation Factory network and showcase uniquely focused technologies enabling end-to-end analysis, experimentation and engineering focused on digital engineering with modeling and simulation and rapid prototyping capabilities.

“As we have witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the requirement for true digital transformation has never been greater. This expansion to SAIC’s longstanding presence in Huntsville with a new Innovation Factory Hub allows us to support emerging needs, while also leveraging our solutions and company-wide expertise – developed over four decades supporting local customers,” said Jim Scanlon, SAIC executive vice president and general manager of the Defense Systems Group. “With all sectors rapidly implementing technology to meet and conduct business virtually, our new Innovation Factory Hub will enable our Huntsville-area customers to accelerate solutions to meet their mission requirements.”

 

Hexagon to Unite GIS Solutions for Huntsville Utilities

Huntsville Utilities has chosen Hexagon’s geographic information system to consolidate the utility’s GIS solutions into one. The new GIS will serve as the foundation for building and managing Huntsville Utilities’ electric, gas, water and fiber infrastructure.

Huntsville Utilities has partnered with Hexagon for three decades to provide utility services to Huntsville and Madison County. With Hexagon’s GIS solutions providing a single source of location-based information, Huntsville Utilities will have real-time data for the operations, engineering and accounting teams to help provide service to the more than 330,000 customers.

“Where we go and what we do in the next 20 years is based on foundational decisions such as our GIS core,” said Wes Kelley, CEO of Huntsville Utilities. “With Hexagon’s solution, we have a single source of information for our physical assets, a trusted platform upon which we will build all our solutions.”

Applications of the new GIS system include outage management workflows, preventive maintenance strategies and more. Users of the new system will be able to design and maintain information about the utility’s assets via the web and mobile devices, which extend the solution into the field to make critical decisions.

“We’re honored Huntsville Utilities selected Hexagon’s GIS solutions,” said Steven Cost, president of Hexagon’s Safety & Infrastructure Division. “We are proud to be part of Huntsville Utilities’ path forward, not only as a technology provider, but also as a partner in the development of our local community.”

Army Intercept Targets Using Northrop Grumman Technology Developed in Huntsville

When Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy visited Huntsville a few weeks ago, it was not to chop watercress.

One of his stops was to thank Northrop Grumman’s Huntsville team for its success in developing the Integrated Battle Command System, a weapons system that will give U.S. troops a technological advantage over the enemy, anywhere in the world.

“It’s not a question of whether or not we might get there,” he told more than 500 Northrup Grumman employees at IBCS manufacturing headquarters in Huntsville. “We have to get there.”

And get there they did – twice in fact over the past couple of weeks with two successful flight tests of the ICBS system.

Northrop Grumman developed IBCS with the Army as cornerstone of its integrated air and missile defense modernization program.

Primarily a Huntsville program, more than 500 of Northrop Grumman’s approximately 2,000 employees in the Huntsville area are involved in IBCS work, including Agile software development; the system’s overall design; and program management and foreign military sales. They also manufacture hardware at the Wall Triana facility, including the Engagement Operations Centers and Integrated Fire Control Network relays.

Furthermore, the Army’s IAMD Program office is at Redstone Arsenal.

Troops prepare for test to intercept incoming cruise and tactical ballistic missiles. (Photo/Northrop Grumman)

The first of two planned operational IBCS flight tests, both were conducted at White Sands Missile Range by the Army 3rd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment.

Both were also part of the IBCS Limited User Test which is several tests simulating realistic battle operations and place performance stresses on the systems.

The first test’s defense included an Air and Missile Defense task force including two battery and one battalion engagement operations centers; two Patriot and Sentinel radars; and three Patriot Advanced Capability 3  launchers connected at the component level to the IBCS Integrated Fire Control Network.

The test began when two “enemy” cruise missile were launched and flew at a low altitude through a mountain range. IBCS fused real-time data from all sensors into a single, accurate composite track for each threat.

In response, two PAC-3 missiles controlled by IBCS were launched and intercepted the cruise missiles.

IBCS sensors extend the battle area, engage threats providing 360-degree protection, increasessurvivability by enabling early detection and continuous tracking, and deliver the capabilities to defeat an increasingly complex threat.

“We are extremely pleased with how IBCS performed during this flight test,” said Kenn Todorov, vice president and general manager, combat systems and mission readiness, Northrop Grumman. “We have been working on an extraordinary command and control system in partnership with the Army, and our goals are the same – to get this capability into the hands of the warfighter as soon as possible.”

IBCS tracked and engaged incoming cruise and tactical ballistic missiles during test. (Photo/Northrop Grumman)

The second IBCS test a few days later intercepted a high-performance, high-speed tactical ballistic missile ) target and a cruise missile target. It demonstrated the system’s ability to acquire, track, identify and engage diverse targets from various locations, speeds and altitudes.

Their defense consisted of two battery and one battalion IBCS engagement operations centers, two Patriot and two Sentinel radars, and four launchers with a mixture of PAC-2, PAC-3 and interceptors connected to the IBCS fire control network.

“I would like to recognize how exceptionally proud I am of the soldiers of the 3-43 ADA Battalion,” said Maj. Gen. Rob Rasch, Army Program Executive Officer, Missiles and Space. “This formation’s laser focus and steadfast dedication, starting with New Equipment Training last year through this LUT live fire, will ultimately transform the Air and Missile Defense fight for our joint formations.

“It’s been amazing to watch our soldiers’ ability to successfully track, engage, and destroy multiple targets in a highly-complex live fire operational test, further demonstrating the IAMD’s game-changing technological advantage. As we continue to fine-tune system performance in order to fully demonstrate system requirements in the Initial Operational Test & Evaluation in Fiscal Year 2022, we maintain high confidence for success due to the great leaders and soldiers of the 3-43, who will ultimately become the first-ever IBCS-enabled battalion.”

The flight test commenced with the target missiles being launched from different areas toward the Army defenders at the controls of IBCS. The tactical missile traveled on a ballistic trajectory, while the cruise missile surrogate flew a low-altitude course. Using data from the multiple radars and ICBS, the soldiers launched a PAC-2 to intercept the cruise missile and a PAC-3 to intercept the ballistic missile. Both targets were intercepted.

“These two back-to-back successful test events are a testament to the commitment and partnership between the great men and women of the Army’s operational and acquisition communities and Northrop Grumman’s program team,” said Todorov. “We are committed to the mission of the Army and look forward to continuing that partnership in getting the game-changing IBCS capability into production and fielded.”

Northrop Grumman employs a workforce of 90,000 worldwide.