Autonomous Systems Funding for Tulsa

Funding to Boost Innovation and Job Creation in Autonomous Systems

The Biden-Harris Administration and the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) have awarded approximately $51 million to the Tulsa Hub for Equitable and Trustworthy Autonomy (THETA). This funding aims to bolster the region’s capabilities in autonomous systems through advanced manufacturing and the deployment of critical technologies for national and economic security. Tulsa is among 12 regions awarded funding from the EDA’s Tech Hubs program, chosen from 31 designated Tech Hub regions last fall.

Autonomous Systems Funding for Tulsa

Tulsa’s history of innovation, coupled with significant assets and federal investment such as the 2022 EDA Build Back Better Regional Challenge award, positions the region to enhance U.S. leadership in equitable and trustworthy autonomous systems. These include uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS), autonomous vehicles, drones, and robotics, with applications spanning agriculture, pipeline inspections, and regional transportation.

“Tulsa Innovation Labs has long believed there is no city in the country as well-equipped to lead this next era of industrial innovation as Tulsa,” said Jennifer Hankins, managing director of Tulsa Innovation Labs. “With a legacy shaped by aerospace and manufacturing, Tulsa is pioneering the future of innovation. In partnership with Osage Nation, Cherokee Nation, Black Tech Street among others, our community is ready to lead the way developing these technologies with a commitment to security and trustworthiness, ensuring the benefits and jobs are widely accessible.”

The EDA’s Tech Hubs funding aims to position the Greater Tulsa Region to tap into the $1.36 trillion global autonomous systems market, potentially creating up to 56,000 new jobs over the next decade. Innovations in this sector are crucial for both economic competitiveness and national security, from protecting Americans on the battlefield to delivering medicine to rural communities. The funding supports the development of technologies that are “Tested and Made in Tulsa, USA.”

Six projects will be funded to drive innovation in autonomous technologies:

  1. Increasing coordination on commercialization strategies among universities and startups.
  2. Building a state-of-the-art testing and simulation environment focused on cyber and data management.
  3. Developing programs to identify opportunities for manufacturers in autonomous systems supply chains and establishing a manufacturing demonstration center for scaling small companies.
  4. Creating an AI Center of Excellence to expand technology exposure for underserved communities.
  5. Expanding workforce programs to align training with industry needs and provide upskilling and on-the-job training opportunities.
  6. Establishing governance structures to execute projects, pursue additional funding, and drive the Tech Hub’s strategy.

The final grant amount will be confirmed in the coming months.

The THETA initiative is led by a steering committee that includes Black Tech Street (BTS), Cherokee Nation Businesses (CNB), L3Harris Aeromet, Madison Strategies Group (MSG), NORDAM, Oklahoma State University (OSU), Osage LLC, PartnerTulsa, Radius Capital, The University of Tulsa (TU), Tulsa Community College (TCC), and Tulsa Economic Development Corporation (TEDC).

“We’re always excited to see a project such as THETA that improves the regional economy and has the potential to help Cherokee Nation Businesses expand into the autonomous systems and component manufacturing industry, support growing defense and commercial needs and shore up critical supply chains,” said Chuck Garrett, CEO of Cherokee Nation Businesses, LLC (CNB). “This project coincides with Cherokee Nation’s approach to improve the lives of its citizens and strengthen the regional economy of northeastern Oklahoma.”

“The Greenwood AI/AS Center of Excellence (G-ACE) opens the door for Black Tulsans to secure good jobs in tech,” said Tyrance Billingsley II, founder and executive director of Black Tech Street. “The Black Tech Street vision is to rebirth Black Wall Street into the world’s premier Black innovation economy. Putting G-ACE in the Historic Greenwood District honors the legacy of this neighborhood, and with Microsoft’s partnership we are delivering on the BTS mission to catalyze Black wealth creation in the Greater Tulsa Region and beyond.”

“Osage LLC’s commitment to the growth and success of the region is evident through our track record of successful collaboration with several THETA partners and our development at Skyway 36,” said Russell Goff, CEO of Osage LLC. “We’re thrilled to continue this important work through THETA’s SAFE-T project, which will create additional research and development opportunities, further increasing the attractiveness of our region to drone and autonomous systems companies.”

The Tulsa award is part of the EDA Tech Hubs program, a $500 million investment aimed at technologies critical to national security and U.S. economic competitiveness. The Tulsa Hub for Equitable and Trustworthy Autonomy (THETA) proposal includes over 75 partners from public and private sectors.

“A diverse, resilient, and inclusive industry base that harnesses the talents of many ensures that benefits are shared widely,” said Ken Levit, executive director of the George Kaiser Family Foundation. “Thanks to the leadership of Tulsa Innovation Labs and to visionary partners such as the EDA, this investment in Tulsa’s regional economy will amplify our local efforts to ensure Tulsa is a thriving community that affords opportunities to all.”

For more information on THETA and a full list of partners, visit TechHubTulsa.com.

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Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry.  Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.


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