Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - The University of Montana announced recently that it was a major contributor to the Economic Development Administration’s multi-million award to Montana’s Headwaters Tech Hub.

I spoke with UM’s Director of Strategic Communications Dave Kuntz about the $41 million award, part of the Regional Technology and Innovation Hub Program.

$41 Million is Part of the Regional Technology Hub Program

“So this tech hub is really the result of a lot of years of hard work from many at the Universities of Montana and Montana's congressional delegation, specifically Senator Tester,” began Kuntz. “It is a federal government-funded hub that allows for innovation and incubation in order to develop some of the technologies and high-tech manufacturing that's needed as we as a nation try to pull back some of these jobs and opportunities that have gone overseas.”

Kuntz said the $41 million dollars will be split between the members of the Montana University System.

The Funds Will be Divided between the Montana University System Schools

“This $41 million is going to be split between the University of Montana, Montana State, Montana Tech, and Salish Kootenai College on a series of research initiatives,” he said. “They're going to help bring some of the high technology research opportunities and job opportunities to Montana, so we can incubate those here and create the jobs for tomorrow.”

Kuntz said Accelerate Montana will play a major role in the newly created Headwaters Tech Hub Office.

“Accelerate Montana is going to be the lead organization in this tech hub work and really work with manufacturers and researchers in order to make sure that we're using this investment to develop the technologies, the manufacturing, the different areas of emphasis that are needed in order to meet some of these large needs, such as more autonomous wildfire fighting and photonics work that's being led over at Montana State,” he said.”

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The Safety of Montana's Wildland Firefighters is Paramount to the Program

Kuntz said the safety of Montana’s wildland firefighters will figure largely in the research announced by Accelerate Montana.

“What we're really leading here at the University of Montana is trying to develop further technology, building on what we've already done, specifically in the wildfire-fighting space, to have more sensors and autonomous ability to be able to fight wildfires without putting firefighters in danger,” he said. “We'll use a lot of this money through the leadership of Accelerate Montana and our expertise here at the University of Montana to really work with our partner universities to develop this technology and see how it can be produced on a mass scale.”

The leading part that UM will play will focus on what is called the ‘Autonomous Smart Systems and Integrated Test Beds' (ASSIST) with its own funding of $15 million for remote sensing instruments and autonomous uncrewed (unmanned) systems.

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