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Community Viewpoint: Lynchburg region leads in innovation
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Community Viewpoint

Community Viewpoint: Lynchburg region leads in innovation

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NanoSeptic file

In this June 28, 2018 file photo, a touch screen on a copier with a NanoSeptic self-cleaning screen is shown. Forest-based NanoSeptic recently secured a $2 million grant to develop a patent for a self-cleaning product called NanoSeptic Surface, which resembles a large sticker and can be placed on door handles and other locations that see heavy traffic.

Innovation, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “the creation of a new idea, method, or device.”

Across the Lynchburg region, a diverse set of organizations are leading the way in the development and application of new technologies that may lead even more to make their home here in the region. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, 505 patents were issued to organizations in the Lynchburg region between 2000 and 2015. That number shows just how much intellectual property is being created in the Lynchburg region and just how much the business community continues to grow.

For example, nuclear propulsion and technologies company, BWX Technologies, recently drew national attention when NASA’s former chief administrator, Jim Bridenstine, visited the company’s advanced technology lab and highlighted that, “The mission (to Mars) is very likely to go through Lynchburg, Virginia because of BWXT. The company, through its focus on thermal nuclear propulsion, could help produce nuclear-powered rockets which could make the trip to Mars twice as fast.”

Additionally, BWXT has patented additional technologies, bringing a high standard of innovation to the Lynchburg region. In 2015, the company patented an integral helical coil pressurized water nuclear reactor. This nuclear reactor enhances steam production by utilizing a helical coil steam generator, a plurality of internal circulation pumps, and an internal control rod drive mechanism structure. Technologies like the reactor could help the region reduce create new opportunities in non – renewable energy, potentially boosting the local economy and helping to bring more jobs to the area.

The additional presence of the North American headquarters for nuclear technologies company, Framatome, and other local nuclear technologies suppliers, could bring more organizations interested in working on contracts for nuclear technology into the region.

Other advances may help elevate the economy in the Lynchburg region by lowering the cost of materials through production machinery. Lynchburg-based Belvac, provides rotary machinery to beverage can makers, helping to lay the groundwork for advances in can-making technology. Last December, the production machinery-oriented company patented a series of systems and process-oriented improvements for high-speed forming of containers, potentially allowing for beverage companies to seamlessly produce more units, and leading to a strengthened local economy by driving down the cost of those units as a result.

As the nation and the world continues to recover from the pandemic, growth in any sectors of the economy is most welcome.

Another regional leader, Delta Star, which specializes in electrical technologies, parts, and services for power transformers and substations on the electric grid, recently developed a patent for a portable electrical substation racking mechanism. This device helps move elements of a mobile electrical substation between a transport mode and an operational mode. While complex, this technology could potentially help protect the region’s infrastructure against expected and unexpected natural disasters, such as the widespread winter storm in Texas that left millions out of power.

Smaller metros like the Lynchburg region, with a total population of 262,393 people, could use additional infrastructure spending, which has been linked to getting more Virginians back to work through remote and telework opportunities.

Other developments could boost public health as the Lynchburg region continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. NanoSeptic, based in Forest, recently secured a $2 million grant from the Tobacco Commission to develop a patent for a self-cleaning product, NanoSeptic Surface. Resembling a large sticker, the product can be placed on door handles and other locations that see heavy traffic and oxidizes organic material through a light-powered process that breaks it down to its basic elements.

“It is not meant to clean your hand or clean objects set in the surface,” explained Mark Sisson, the co-founder of NanoSeptic, “The surface itself is simply self-cleaning.”

While not as important to the region’s public health as administration and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines, NanoSeptic sent 3,500 units of its surface-cleaning technology to a hospital in Saudi Arabia to help prevent the spread of MERS syndrome, and 50 units to Lynchburg’s own Liberty Christian Academy for use as self-cleaning computer mouse pads.

It’s ironic that a region that many pass by might help send the first humans to the red planet and get thousands of fellow Virginians back to work through infrastructure and public health improvements.

James Black specializes in communications for the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance.

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