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Miami ‘climate tech hub’ gets $19.5 million from feds. Focus will be reinforcing coast

South Florida ClimateReady tech hub consortium partners 1Print and the University of Miami are working on 3D printed “sea hives.” The South Florida ClimateReady tech hub received nearly $20M to advance technology for a resilient coastline and to recruit and train employees to enter the green workforce.
Provided by 1Print
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The Miami Herald
South Florida ClimateReady tech hub consortium partners 1Print and the University of Miami are working on 3D printed “sea hives.” The South Florida ClimateReady tech hub received nearly $20M to advance technology for a resilient coastline and to recruit and train employees to enter the green workforce.

South Florida got the nation’s first climate tech hub last year and now it’s getting money to make it run — $19.5 million that the Biden administration announced on Tuesday.

Fittingly, much of the initial federal funding will go toward training and research that will be key to building a coastline more resilient to the rising seas that are the biggest threat to South Florida. It will boost “clean concrete” research headed by Florida International University and engineering and construction training programs led by Miami Tech Works.

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“The production of concrete is a large contributor to CO2 emissions, so the need for cleaner concrete is extremely important and resilient concrete is critical in places that are vulnerable to climate change,” said Eric Smith, the Tech Hubs program director at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.

“We really do see this as the first step in the program, the first set of investments,” he added.

South Florida’s ClimateReady Tech Hub, one of 12 around the country included in a first wave of federal funding, is touted as both an incubator for designing new ways to adapt to rising temperatures and seas but also a generator of “green jobs.” There are 400 members so far, including local governments, businesses, universities, organizations, companies and tribal partners.

Chris Mejia uses a forklift to move commercial air conditioning units in Doral, Florida on Friday, June 30, 2023. Watsco, a local HVAC distributor, is a member of the SouthFlorida ClimateReady Tech Hub.
Al Diaz
Chris Mejia uses a forklift to move commercial air conditioning units in Doral, Florida on Friday, June 30, 2023. Watsco, a local HVAC distributor, is a member of the SouthFlorida ClimateReady Tech Hub.

This federal check amounts to the first seed money in an effort spearheaded by Miami-Dade County with a goal of creating 23,000 green union jobs with an average base salary of $83,000 over the next five years. The tech hub is fundraising for the remaining $50 million needed to meet that goal. There is a long way to go. They have raised $500,000 so far thanks to investments from the Knight Foundation, Citadel CEO, Ken Griffin and others.

“We have the biggest challenges and the best innovators — and now we have great capital to move these programs forward and its a demonstration to the world,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava to the Miami Herald.

The tech hub is meant to be a bridge between entrepreneurs and institutions with academic experts. Local companies will have access to the expertise and facilities, and eventually a trained workforce. For example, FIU’s “Wall of Wind” facility that can imitate hurricane-grade wind, will be available to startups at no cost.

When the hub reaches its fundraising goal, some of the private companies will also see some money.

Some of the companies who are tech hub members are KINDDesigns and 1Print, which 3D prints concrete seawalls; Blue Frontier, a Boca Raton start-up that makes energy-reducing air conditioning systems; and Watsco, a Miami company that distributes energy efficient HVAC systems that is partnering with the CLEO Institute, a grassroots advocacy group, for HVAC system training — free of cost.

The aim of tech hubs is to strengthen regional economic growth and jobs – the county anticipates the ClimateReady Tech Hub will generate $41 billion over the next decade.

“We are the most entrepreneurial place in the country and we want to make sure those entrepreneurs are unhindered in their ability to build the best products,” said Francesca de Quesada Covey, the Chief Innovation and Economic Development Officer for Miami-Dade County.

Ashley Miznazi is a climate change reporter for the Miami Herald funded by the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Family Foundation in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners.

This story was produced in partnership with the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a multi-newsroom initiative founded by the Miami Herald, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, The Palm Beach Post, the Orlando Sentinel, WLRN Public Media and the Tampa Bay Times.

Copyright 2024 WLRN Public Media

Ashley Miznazi | Miami Herald