District technology plan will target GW students

The University could be a player in Mayor Vincent Gray’s vision to make D.C. the leading technology center on the East coast.

The city launched a new economic development project last week, reaching out to local universities to participate in a coalition of entrepreneurs, investors and fund promising startups.

The project, called 1776, will bring together corporations, universities, embassies and policymakers in a shared space. Its 15,000-square-foot spread situated on 15th Street has the capacity to expand to 60,000 square feet over time.

Director of the Office of Entrepreneurship James Chung said the 1776 incubator is still in its early stages, and the University is still “exploring various economic development opportunities with them.”

Professors could also participate by advising companies, researchers and entrepreneurs on their proposals.

Chung said he did not know whether the University will only allow students enrolled in certain courses to take part in 1776, but everyone would at least have to go through an application process.

The city has invested $200,000 in the venture, according to a press release from Gray’s office. The effort is a part of the mayor’s five-year economic plan, which emphasizes technology entrepreneurship to turn the District into the eastern version of Palo Alto, Calif.

“Ultimately, the District has relied for decades on the federal government and federal contracts, and we can see the writing on the wall that that’s no longer going to be an option,” said Jennifer Boss, a representative in D.C.’s office for economic development. She added that technology initiatives would add diversity to the city’s economy and make it more sustainable.

She said the campus will allow students from GW and neighboring Georgetown University, which have both officially signed on to the project, pitch their business ideas and get feedback from experts.

“1776 is going to be an event base to help them think through a lot of their ideas,” Boss said.

Students also helped craft a city development plan last year, stressing job growth and industry build-up. Gray, an alumnus, has made it a point over the last two years to reach out to area universities to aid in the city’s economic and environmental goals.

The University also has catered toward entrepreneurs in recent years, hosting an annual business plan competition and a volunteer mentorship program for student or faculty start-ups.

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