CIT Trading Research Focus for Business

The Virginia institute, stung by rumors of more budget cuts, plans to promote the region and help local businesses stay competitive

he Virginia Center for Innovative Technology has its eye on helping local technology-based businesses stay competitive, a shift from its 10-year history of brokerage research for public universities and community colleges.

The Herndon-based organization will lend a hand to 1,500 companies during the next three years in acquiring and developing new technologies, and bringing new products and services to market. The center plans to target businesses in five key industries: information technology and telecommunications, biotechnology and medical, energy and environmental, aerospace and transportation, and advanced manufacturing and electronics.

Local companies have wanted the center to follow this direction for some time, noted Edward Bersoff, president of BTG Inc. of Vienna, Va. The new focus will do more to help small businesses, he added. And the focus could also help the center justify its keep, particularly given growing questions about CIT's lack of purpose.

Catherine Renault, the center's managing director for technical services and support, said the new emphasis on business reflects internal changes in the organization. Business leaders now hold more seats on the 15-member board of directors, and Robert Templin, the center's new director, believes in developing partnerships with businesses, she explained.

The center will tap resources in the state's educational institutions and federal laboratories to make businesses more productive through the implementation of new technologies. The three-year plan, approved last month by the board of directors, calls for regional centers where companies can access CIT services, such as consulting and establishing partnerships between companies and educational institutions.

Renault said CIT will set up 12 offices statewide, probably at community colleges. The organization also will expand its entrepreneurial assistance services by expanding into Blacksburg and Hampton. CIT has an entrepreneurial center at Old Dominion University.

Another program that might grow involves the technology application center operating at ODU. Renault said CIT may create more of the engineering assistance sites to help businesses conduct early product prototyping and testing.

The 1995-1997 plan also calls for a $500,000 investment in a venture capital firm to attract investors and fund start-up, technology-based companies.

Renault said the center's board remains committed to implementing the programs despite a $4 million cut in appropriated funds for next year. The Virginia legislature allocated $8.2 million for CIT this year and $4.2 million for 1996. She explained that the center will use $4 million in reserve funds to keep CIT running next year.


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