Gov. Ralph Northam announced Monday that six small businesses will receive a total of more than $1 million in funding and services through the 2021 RISE Coastal Community Resilience Challenge.
The winners were selected from nearly 100 applications and will each receive a combination of a grant and a loan of up to $250,000 to advance and demonstrate innovative products that help coastal communities adapt to the impacts of sea level rise and flooding, including flood management and infrastructure, data analytics, protection of buildings, and re-establishing critical utilities.
“The RISE Coastal Community Resilience Challenge is one important way that Virginia is answering the call to address the growing challenge of extreme weather events, flooding, and sea level rise,” Northam said. “This funding will provide a significant boost to the groundbreaking work of six innovative entrepreneurs focused on creating adaptive, scalable solutions that will ensure the viability, resiliency, and economic vitality of our coastal communities now and for future generations.”
In October, Northam unveiled the Virginia Coastal Resilience Master Planning Framework, which included a series of initiatives the Commonwealth will undertake to bolster Virginia’s resilience to sea level rise and natural hazards to limit the impact of flooding, extreme weather events, and wildfires.
Built on the directives from Northam in Executive Order Twenty-Four, this document is among the most comprehensive efforts undertaken by any state to improve resilience and protect people and property from natural catastrophes, and will serve as a blueprint for implementing Virginia’s first project-driven Coastal Resilience Master Plan by the end of 2021.
“The 2021 Coastal Community Resilience Challenge yielded more submissions than we have ever received,” said RISE Executive Director Dr. Paul Robinson. “Also going forward, we are going to expand RISE’s Challenge model to other areas in the Commonwealth to include rural regions that experience unique flood hazards and make Virginia the leader in resilience innovation.”
In 2017, Virginia was awarded $120.5 million through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC) for innovative solutions to combat sea level rise in Hampton Roads.
HUD allocated $5.25 million of the total award to support the development of the nation’s first-of-its-kind resilience innovation hub called RISE, a Norfolk-based nonprofit organization that provides businesses resources to develop and grow resilience-building solutions for coastal communities. RISE identifies resilience issues, sources solutions, facilitates deployment and validation, builds enterprise readiness, and provides catalytic funding.
“Sea level rise is having a sizeable impact on our economy, and I look forward to seeing the solutions these six businesses develop,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “This competition is an important mechanism to support growth and success for our small business community as they advance innovations in resiliency for our coastal region.”
“In recent years alone, Virginia has faced rising seas levels, recurrent flooding and storms that are only becoming more extreme,” said Secretary of Natural Resources and Chief Resilience Officer of Virginia Matthew Strickler. “The need for heightened resiliency has never been more important, and I’m heartened to see private industry partnering with our state and federal government to answer the call by addressing these threats.”
Since its inception in 2018, RISE has deployed more than $4 million in financial assistance and services to support 27 businesses in piloting their technologies in Hampton Roads. Through RISE’s Coastal Community Resilience competitions and the establishment of its Resilience Innovation Hub, the region has become a living laboratory for companies, where the products and services needed to adapt to the impacts of climate change can be demonstrated locally and applied globally.
“Implementing comprehensive economic opportunities surrounding coastal adaptation is a key part of our Coastal Resilience Master Plan to protect and adapt Virginia’s coast,” said Rear Admiral Ann Phillips, Special Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Adaptation and Protection. “We are thankful for the hard work of RISE and of these six entrepreneurs, whose innovations and creativity will not only help address the complex issues facing our coastal communities, but also prepare our Commonwealth to be more resilient in a climate-changed future.
Winners of the 2021 Coastal Community Resilience Challenge join projects already underway from four previous challenges, including sensors capturing critical stormwater system capacity data, applications to re-route drivers in real-time to avoid flooded roads, and mobile manufacturing units that produce custom shoreline protection structures to mitigate flooding. In addition to the grant funding, businesses will receive access to other resources from the RISE Resilience Innovation Hub and Testbed such as a business accelerator, co-working office and testing space, real-world pilot sites, and introductions to regional municipalities and other stakeholders.
As part of the Commonwealth’s Coastal Resilience and Adaptation Economy Initiative, RISE will launch a business competition to address rural flooding challenges. The five finalists selected from the competition will receive support from RISE to strengthen their business plans and finalists will have a unique opportunity to test their resilience solutions on coastal properties through the Middle Peninsula Chesapeake Bay Public Access Authority.
In 2020, the United States endured 22 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters, costing $95 billion in damages to homes, businesses, and public infrastructure. Between 2018 and 2019, Virginia experienced impacts from nine events with a total cost of approximately $1.6 billion.
For more information on the winners and the next competition cycle, visit riseresilience.org.
2021 Coastal Community Resilience Challenge Winners
- Forerunner builds decision-support tools that mobilize hard-to-aggregate data to streamline floodplain management, compliance, and outreach. With RISE’s help, Forerunner will pilot new features that can estimate citywide per-property flood damage potential for disaster planning and insurance purposes.
- Hosta Labs utilizes artificial intelligence to automate the analysis of images of houses, providing insight on measurements, materials, and layouts for property insurance carriers and home improvement companies. Hosta Labs will expand its product to building exteriors.
- Smart Walls Construction developed deployable telescopic walls to protect coastal cities from floods and storm surges more affordably and without permanently blocking the view of the water. The technology was successfully validated in laboratory tests. Smart Walls will conduct a real-world pilot, fine-tune its business model, and prepare for market launch.
- StormSensor is a climate tech startup that tracks flooding and overflows within storm, sewer, and coastal systems. With RISE’s help, StormSensor will test and launch new features to detect clogs in stormwater systems to help cities prioritize maintenance and reduce flood risk.
- True Flood Risk utilizes an AI-driven property risk management platform to provide global climate risk analytics and geolocation intelligence related to flooding. True Flood Risk will advance and pilot its patent-pending online tool that instantly estimates structural height of properties without a manual onsite inspection.
- Zilper Trenchless, a construction tech startup, creates novel trenchless pipe-laying technology that minimizes the excavation and significantly reduces the costs of laying water pipes underground. Zilper will conduct customer discovery and pilot the technology.