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NGA, MTC, corporate accelerator form first partnership to advance geospatial tech in St Louis


Concept renderings for the Next NGA West campus from the design-build team McCarthy HITT winning proposal. Photo by James Lowe, US Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is partnering with the Missouri Technology Corporation (MTC) and leading corporate accelerator Capital Innovators to launch a Geospatial Corporate Accelerator program in St Louis for driving R&D and commercialization of geospatial technologies and applications.  The partnership particularly highlights the significance and contributions that the greater St. Louis-based companies can bring to the geospatial intelligence ecosystem.

The first of its kind of a partnership between a corporate accelerator and government intelligence agency, the program is expected to start early 2021. Earlier in the year, NGA had signed a Partnership Intermediary Agreement with MTC, with the primary objective of engaging with the greater St. Louis region and beyond to develop innovations in geospatial technology through collaboration and a transfer of technology.

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In addition to the $1.7-billion Next NGA West project, its new upcoming facility in the region, in October this year the agency announced its plans to open a new geospatial technology lab at the T-REX innovation center in downtown St. Louis. Called Moonshot Labs, the initiative is inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s bold “moonshot” assertion in September 1962 where NGA predecessor organizations mapped the moon in support of the Apollo missions in the 1960s. The labs will support the NGA moonshot, while enhancing the region’s technology ecosystem.

NGA corporate accelerator program

Through the MTC, NGA will develop innovations in geospatial technology through collaboration and a transfer of technology. The Accelerator will promote entrepreneurship, R&D and commercialization of geospatial applications and its strategic priorities of raising innovation capacity for advanced applications for leading industry and community development drivers and accelerating entrepreneurship and the availability of risk capital.

MTC is a public-private partnership created by the Missouri General Assembly to promote entrepreneurship and foster the growth of new and emerging high-tech companies with a vision is to transform the region through the power of entrepreneurship by serving as a catalyst for technology-based innovation to achieve sustainable economic growth.

“NGA has demonstrated great confidence in our state as it invests nearly $2 billion in one of the largest Missouri headquarters developments in history, and, with strong community support, is making the Show-Me State the global leader in the fast-growing location-based technologies industry,” Jason Hall, Chair of the MTC Board of Directors, said in statement.

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Capital Innovators was selected to operate the NGA-sponsored Geospatial Corporate Accelerator program. A top accelerator in the US for the past five years which also led the way in St. Louis-based corporate accelerator partnerships through its work with Maritz and Ameren, Capital Innovators will begin soliciting applications for the in late 2020 targeting an early 2021 launch of a two cohort program.

“With a proven track record of recruiting promising entrepreneurs and scaling startups into successful job creators in Missouri, the nationally regarded Capital Innovators is a perfect fit to launch this first-of-a-kind geospatial accelerator,” he added.

“Capital Innovators is thrilled to assist NGA in its innovation efforts by sourcing best-in-breed geospatial startups and delivering our world-class accelerator that will provide tremendous value to NGA, its employees, the program participants, and the St. Louis region,” said Judy Sindecuse, Capital Innovators CEO.

Echoing similar sentiments, Brian Dixon, COO and Managing Director, Capital Innovators, said, “We are thrilled at the opportunity to partner with NGA and the Missouri Technology Corporation to advance the next layer of the St. Louis innovation ecosystem through geospatial-intelligence technologies. With NGA currently building its new $1.75 billion headquarters in downtown St. Louis, and St. Louis becoming the global hub for geospatial-intelligence, we are honored that we will get to contribute as a key part of NGA’s innovation strategy by operating a Geospatial Accelerator. This program will attract best-in-breed businesses while boosting economic development for the region by scaling the startups that participate.”

The St. Louis geospatial hub

NGA corporate accelerator
Photo credit: Sam valadi via Flickr. CC BY 2.0

St. Louis — already recognized as a global center of excellence for agtech and biosciences — has been working to position itself as the geospatial center of excellence with several prominent technology and geospatial companies setting up or expanding their operations there.

The upcoming new NGA West headquarters north of St. Louis has the potential to serve not only as a catalyst for the expansion of the geospatial sector in St. Louis, but also as an opportunity to create a new transformative path for growth in the region.

“St. Louis is becoming the geotechnical hub for the nation, really for the world,” NGA Director, Vice Adm. Robert Sharp, had stated at the USGIF Geospatial Gateway Forum on October 20, 2020.

The accelerator cohorts will serve as a vehicle to drive connections between industry participants and NGA employees, exposing them to creative thinkers and new ideas. Additionally, it is also felt that early-stage geospatial companies will have the opportunity to mature, specifically those developing dual-use technologies — products with both commercial and military uses — which will grow the number of geospatial solutions available to NGA and its customers.

Reacting to the development,Andrew Dearing, Project Lead for the GeoFutures Initiative, said, “The establishment of a geospatial-focused corporate accelerator sponsored by NGA will serve as a critical anchor institution to St. Louis’ rapidly growing geospatial ecosystem and is exactly the type of transformative development we called for in the GeoFutures Strategic Roadmap.” He added that it will serve as a catalyst institution that bolsters ties between NGA and our geospatial sector and advances our efforts to strengthen St. Louis’ place as the global center of geospatial excellence.

The GeoFutures Initiative was launched in October 2019 to bolster the St. Louis region’s rapidly growing geospatial sector and develop a strategic plan for the future. In a strategic roadmap published earlier this year, GeoFutures had called for an “Innovation Collaborative” to promote entrepreneurship, research, development, and commercialization of geospatial applications and its strategic priorities of raising innovation capacity for advanced applications for leading industry and community development drivers and accelerating entrepreneurship and the availability of risk capital.

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