September 28, 2021

What’s ‘Next’ for Alabama? State’s tech, bio-research future ‘evolving very rapidly’

Imagine an Alabama that is producing regular breakthroughs in space exploration, bioscience, advanced manufacturing and...

Imagine an Alabama that is producing regular breakthroughs in space exploration, bioscience, advanced manufacturing and national defense applications, where a generation of up-and-coming tech entrepreneurs are setting the course for business in the 21st century.

Actually, you don’t have to imagine it – officials say it’s already happening.

That’s the focus of a new campaign kicking off today from the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Next” is the name of an extension of Commerce’s signature “Made in Alabama” campaign, which for the last eight years has spotlighted business and innovation around the state in both urban and rural areas.

“Next” will help tell the story of where Alabama is, and where it is going.

“We wanted to capture a sense of Alabama’s future economy that is present today but is evolving very rapidly,” Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said.

“And we wanted to build on that ‘Made in Alabama’ brand, which has been very successful. But we wanted to take it one step forward, with a future look at creating a more digital and experiential presence for our audience, which is made up of Alabamians, C-suite executives and site consultants and international business executives.”

The campaign kicks off today at the 2021 Economic Development Association of Alabama Conference in Point Clear, and includes the launch of a new website with a snazzy video presentation that you can see above.

The video shows prominent Alabama brands such as Mercedes-Benz and Shipt, along with images of the DNA double helix, genetic sequencing markers, a microscope, banks of computers, cells and a rocket launch – images which easily illustrate the terrain of the campaign.

Alongside Sec. Canfield’s speech, “Next” will launch with a website – madeinalabama.com/next – featuring animated graphics and updates on cutting edge happenings in the state – from additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, to electric vehicle production and digital smart factories.

The look of the “Next” campaign will also translate into digital and print advertisements, some of which will include QR codes to provide a three-dimensional experience.

Change is happening so fast in so many fields, Canfield said, it is important to tell the story as it is happening.

“Technology and data applications are becoming very intertwined,” he said.

“Biosciences have accelerated, and COVID played a big part in that with vaccine development and other new technologies in the development of therapies. Sciences dealing with specialty alloys to make vehicles and aircraft lighter are changing rapidly. We used to talk about an automotive industry – now we’re talking about mobility. You see a marriage of industrial processes with data applications, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and early stage companies are playing a more pivotal role in how our economy is taking shape.”

As Canfield said, some of the campaign’s story is already being told. Last week, state officials gathered in Birmingham to celebrate the opening of offices for Landing, the new startup by Shipt founder Bill Smith, which relocated to the Magic City from San Francisco.

Some of those narratives are well-known, others are just being discovered.

These include the development of NASA’s Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket ever built, a 365-foot vehicle housing 730,000 gallons of fuel and the fact that Alabama produces about 1.4 million vehicles a year.

But there’s also work by researchers at the HudsonAlpha Center for Plant Science and Sustainable Agriculture, where research is ongoing to find ways with biotech tools to improve crops, maximize fuel production from plant biomass, reduce fertilizer use, and eliminate fungicides.

“Part of what we want to capture was a sense of the future that Alabama is going to have, and how that growth is going to be experienced, and what that’s going to look like,” Canfield said.

“What is happening around the state is telling the story. There’s a lot of noise in the market – disruptions due to supply chain, COVID-19. We wanted to create an opportunity be heard above that noise.”

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