Tulsa Receives EDA Tech Hubs Designation with ‘Equitable & Trustworthy Autonomy’ Proposal

24 October 2023

The U.S. Economic Development Administration has named Tulsa a “Tech Hub” as part of a historic $500 million investment in U.S. economic competitiveness and national security. Tulsa’s proposal, the Tulsa Hub for Equitable & Trustworthy Autonomy (THETA), will advance the development of autonomous technologies, such as uncrewed aerial systems (UAS), drones, cybersecurity and generative artificial intelligence. THETA was led by Tulsa Innovation Labs (TIL) – an initiative of the George Kaiser Family Foundation – and coalition members Black Tech Street (BTS), Madison Strategies Group (MSG), Oklahoma State University (OSU), PartnerTulsa, The University of Tulsa (TU), Tulsa Community College (TCC) and Tulsa Economic Development Corporation (TEDC).

“The autonomous systems revolution is upon us, and it is evident through this distinction from the EDA that the Greater Tulsa Region is uniquely positioned to lead innovation in these technologies, which are critical to our country,” said Jennifer Hankins, managing director of Tulsa Innovation Labs. “The Tech Hubs designation is also an important validation of TIL’s tech-led economic development strategy for the region, ‘Tulsa’s Tech Niche.’ This moment affirms Tulsa’s position as a nationwide leader in uncrewed aerial systems, cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing and other complementary industries.”

The Tech Hubs designation affirms that American leadership in science and technology is firmly rooted in the Tulsa region. THETA will develop, deploy and manufacture the next generation of technological innovations in autonomous technologies specifically focused on counter-UAS, agriculture and pipeline inspection, parcel delivery and urban and regional mobility. THETA ensures these innovations and the quality jobs they bring will start, grow and remain in the Greater Tulsa Region.

“As Oklahoma’s land-grant university, we are deeply committed to the aerospace industry and are proud to see our visionary leadership in UAS and advanced air mobility research and technology development acknowledged in such a significant way,” said Dr. Kayse Shrum, president of Oklahoma State University. “This designation solidifies OSU as the premiere university for the next generation of aerospace technologies, which will continue to have a meaningful impact on Tulsa, our state and Oklahoma State University.”

“The University of Tulsa has long been recognized as a top cybersecurity research university with ongoing applications in critical infrastructure protection, smart environments and robotics,” said Brad Carson, president of The University of Tulsa. “We are proud to be a part of this coalition of partners dedicated to making Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma a center of gravity for critical cyber, autonomy and human-machine teaming innovations that improve our national security. By partnering together and sharing expertise, Tulsa is poised to become globally competitive in these technologies.”

THETA was one of 31 Tech Hubs designees chosen from a pool of 197 applicants. The Tech Hubs designation makes Tulsa eligible to apply for up to $75 million in implementation funding from the EDA in Phase 2 of the Tech Hubs Program. THETA will leverage these funds to transform the Greater Tulsa Region into the world’s leading source of innovations and talent in autonomous systems, expanding equitable economic opportunities across the Tulsa region, ensuring all Tulsans are able to participate in the region’s resurgence.

“This is an incredible moment for Tulsa and northeastern Oklahoma, indicative of our promising economic future and a testament to the tireless work and creativity of countless partners across the region,” said Kian Kamas, executive director of PartnerTulsa. “PartnerTulsa’s mission is to increase economic opportunities for our citizens and establish a more resilient regional economy. A Tech Hubs designation pushes us closer to our goal of expanding access to all Tulsans and building a more equitable economy."

With the Tech Hubs distinction, the Greater Tulsa Region is set to capture $4 billion of the $1.36 trillion global autonomous systems market, with the goal of creating nearly 200,000 new jobs in the next decade. Through THETA’s intentional focus on equity, Tulsa will have an opportunity to add 66,000 women and 39,000 Black, Latinx, and Native American individuals to the region’s workforce in autonomous systems-related occupations, with wages $7,000 higher than the regional average.

“The Black Tech Street vision to rebirth Black Wall Street into a premiere Black Innovation Economy is strongly reflected and represented in this THETA proposal,” said Tyrance Billingsley II, executive director of Black Tech Street. “By centering Black Tulsans and the legacy of the Historic Greenwood District within this effort, we are able to further this mission of catalyzing Black wealth creation in our region and across the country.”

The consortium that participated in the Tulsa Hub for Equitable & Trustworthy Autonomy (THETA) proposal, which resulted in the Tech Hubs designation, includes 50 partners across public and private sectors.

“We believe this designation is a defining moment for Tulsa. The deliberative and collaborative work of Tulsa’s private and public sector partners in recent years is opening up new frontiers for all Tulsans,” said Ken Levit, executive director of the George Kaiser Family Foundation. “We are aspiring to build a vibrant, energetic and inclusive economy in Tulsa that is a model for this nation. This designation of Tulsa as a Tech Hub tells the world that something important is happening here. The George Kaiser Family Foundation will continue to support the effort to realize Tulsa’s full potential under this initiative as we work together to become a globally competitive city that prospers for all.”

The Tech Hubs designees will now compete for Phase 2 of the funding for implementation projects to help propel the region into a self-sustaining, globally competitive Tech Hub.

About Tulsa Innovation Labs
Tulsa Innovation Labs is an initiative of the George Kaiser Family Foundation founded in 2020 to develop a citywide strategy that positions Tulsa as a tech hub, leveraging the strengths of the Heartland. Through a diverse coalition of public and private partners, TIL is creating programs that seek to make Tulsa the nation’s most inclusive tech community.

About the George Kaiser Family Foundation
George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) is a charitable organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty through investments in early childhood education, community health, social services and civic enhancement. Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, GKFF works primarily on initiatives developed in collaboration with Tulsa-based direct service organizations. For more information about the George Kaiser Family Foundation, visit GKFF.org.

About Black Tech Street
Black Tech Street is an organization founded to rebirth Black Wall Street as a Black Innovation Economy and catalyze a movement that sees Black people embrace technology as a means to build wealth and impact the world. Black Tech Street architects and secures Black tech focused economic and industry development opportunities for the Greenwood community and serves as a chief storyteller for Black Wall Street's 21st century rebirth.

About Madison Strategies Group
Madison Strategies Group is an evidence-based nonprofit workforce development organization with a dedication to empowering underserved populations through comprehensive education and employment services at no cost. The organization equips Tulsans with the necessary skills and training to attain economic mobility through career readiness training, post-secondary education, industry-recognized credentials and other services. Over 12 years, MSG has helped more than 3,000 low-income individuals in Tulsa begin rewarding careers in high-demand sectors.

About Oklahoma State University
Oklahoma State University is a premier land-grant university that prepares students for success. Through teaching, research and Extension, OSU engages communities and empowers servant-leaders to meet society’s most pressing challenges. OSU is the largest university system in Oklahoma and has more than 34,000 students across its five-campus system and more than 25,000 on its combined Stillwater and Tulsa campuses, with students from all 50 states and more than 125 nations. Established in 1890, OSU has graduated more than 280,000 students to serve the state of Oklahoma, the nation and the world.

About PartnerTulsa
PartnerTulsa is the City of Tulsa’s economic development authority that streamlines and strengthens Tulsa’s economic development efforts through the merging of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development (MOED), Tulsa Industrial Authority (TIA), Tulsa Parking Authority (TPA), and Economic Development Commission (EDC) into a single, enhanced Public Trust. PartnerTulsa (aka TAEO) is governed by a 13-member Board of Trustees and provides staffing for and oversees the operations of the Tulsa Development Authority (TDA).

About The University of Tulsa
The University of Tulsa is located on a 200-acre residential campus along historic Route 66 just two miles from downtown Tulsa. TU is among the top 15% of U.S. News & World Report's best colleges and was ranked No. 20 among U.S. universities that emphasize science, technology, engineering and math by Forbes Magazine. With a perfect score from Money Magazine for Best Colleges in America, TU is in elite company nationwide for graduation and placement rates, cost of attendance, financial aid and alumni salaries. To learn more, visit utulsa.edu.

About Tulsa Community College
Tulsa Community College, winner of two national Awards of Excellence from the American Association of Community Colleges in 2021, is a vital link to workforce development for northeast Oklahoma. Serving more Oklahomans than any other higher education institution in the state, TCC has four main campuses with roughly 21,000 students in credit courses each year. For five decades, TCC has provided access to an affordable college education. As one of 30 community colleges selected for the inaugural Pathways Project, a national initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, TCC is one of the most comprehensive community colleges in the United States. For more information on TCC, visit www.tulsacc.edu.

About Tulsa Economic Development Corporation
Tulsa Economic Development Corporation (TEDC) helps grow communities by supporting startups and growing businesses with loan capital, entrepreneurial resources and affordable space critical for success. TEDC’s vision is to operate in an ecosystem where obstacles are removed and resources are plentiful to level the playing field for all who desire to build successful businesses, despite their zip code, race or personal financial situation.


Jessica Remer, Tulsa Innovation Labs: [email protected]
(918) 759-0288


Source: businesswire.com