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Fairfax County, Virginia

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Tony Castrilli,
Director of Public Affairs

Innovation Fund Helps to Diversify Our Economy

News Highlights

  • Nonprofit's innovation fund will help to diversify our economy, a key goal in Fairfax County's Economic Success Plan.

 

Innovations often can start as small ideas that ending up having a big impact. Just look at Silicon Valley.

You don’t need to be a tech rock star to create innovations that benefit our area. The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia is looking for ideas and money for its Innovation Fund.

The grantmaker uses “venture philanthropy” to provide startup dollars for innovative programs. In part, the fund focuses on diversifying our economy, something county officials are working to achieve.

“The goals of the Community Foundation’s Innovation Fund are to help inculcate a culture of innovation in the region, build a source of venture philanthropy, and promote an economic growth model that is equitable and inclusive of all segments of our local work force,” said Eileen Ellsworth, the foundation’s president. “These goals are highly aligned with the goals of Fairfax County’s Economic Success Plan in many important ways.”

 

Local Impact

Innovation grants have made a real impact in Fairfax County. For example, the fund provided venture capital to:

  • Expand the Cyber Patriot program in Fairfax County Public Schools. This money will bring the program to 10 middle schools this year and next.
  • Launch the very first Mini Maker Faire at South Lakes High School in Reston that was attended by more than 3,000 visitors in both 2014 and 2015.
  • Allow the Children’s Science Center, which focuses on STEM education, to expand into a permanent location.

“I’ve been on the receiving end of the power of the Innovation Fund,” said Tanya La Force, board chair for the Children’s Science Center. “It invested in the center at critical times of our growth.  With these seed funds, we grew our mobile program and later opened Northern Virginia’s first science museum – the Children’s Science Center Lab at the Fair Oaks Mall.  Not only were the funds important, but the Innovation Funds’ support also helped elevate awareness for our mission.”

 

Innovation Is Key to our Economic Plan

We’re trying to stimulate innovation as key strategy in our economic plan, and the Innovation Fund helps us to achieve the plan’s following goals:

  • Create innovation hubs that can lead to new companies and jobs
  • Expand research and development activity in the county
  • Attract companies in emerging industries like, cyber security, data analytics and translational medicine
  • Expand training and preparation in science, technology, engineering, arts and math
  • Provide coordinated and efficient workforce training

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