Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) While less than a year has passed since Montana was designated as a regional technology and innovation hub, the program has made headway in advancing new technologies and on Tuesday, it landed a large $41 million Phase 2 investment to continue that effort.

Sen. Jon Tester announced the funding early Tuesday, saying the investment for the Headwaters Tech Hub will help cement “Montana's leading role in helping America stay ahead of countries like China.”

“Montana is a big state that can do big things,” Tester said. “We’ve proven that we have what it takes to lead the nation in technological innovation that will ensure America can continue to outcompete countries like China.”

Tester met with state entrepreneurs, tech leaders and educators in Missoula early last year to discuss the challenges and opportunities that face Montana as it looks to compete on a federal level for funding as a technology hub.

Tester helped draft the CHIPS and Sciences Act the prior year, setting up what some tech leaders described as a generational investment in American technology, innovation and job creation.

In crafting the bill, Tester joined Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, to include language that required one of the new tech hubs to be established in a rural state. Shortly after, Montana received that designation, setting it up to share in roughly $75 million in Phase 1 funding.

Tuesday's announced moves that effort to Phase 2 and brings $41 million with it. Tester was the only member of the Montana congressional delegation to serve on the conference committee that negotiated the bill.

“Bringing good-paying jobs back to the United States, securing our domestic supply chains, and developing next generation technology starts with investments right here in the Treasure State,” Tester said. “I will continue to partner with the Headwaters team to make sure they have the resources they need to succeed.”

The Headwaters Hub is led by Accelerate Montana and includes a consortium of more than 30 members. The hub is centered around photonics – optical and laser technologies primarily – as well as autonomy, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The technologies have implications ranging from self-driving vehicles to LiDAR and wildfire management. Sen. Steve Daines announced the funding as well.

Daine's "Endless Frontier Act" was signed into law as part of the Chips and Sciences Act.

“Montana is leading the country in tech innovation, which will help us win the race against China, create good-paying jobs here at home and further boost our economy,” Daines said.