Santa Cruz Tech Beat


Monterey Bay Drone, Automation and Robotics technology (DART) initiative unites industry, academia, government

By Josh Metz
FORA Economic Development Manager
Special for Santa Cruz Tech Beat

January 29, 2019 — Marina, CA

The Monterey Bay Drone, Automation and Robotics technology (DART) initiative unites industry, academia and government to grow and attract good-fit, clean tech DART companies and create jobs, expand regional economic potential, promote new venture formation, and sustain regional vitality. There are critical roles for each sector to play in realizing this exciting economic potential.


In the academic realm, educational institution and programs oriented towards meeting student and industry demand for focused training and skills development within the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) areas to inform new product development and marketing are needed. Very near term and longer-term curriculum updates are needed. For example, with the hopeful establishment of Joby Aviation’s manufacturing facility at the Marina Airport a workforce development task force is now meeting to address the potential jobs growth in the areas of advanced composite manufacturing, electrical and aeronautical engineering. Along with a focus on traditional education pathways, the opportunity exists to expand offerings specifically tailored to meeting industry jobs growth via innovations in apprenticeship and other certification programming for faster and perhaps more accessible workforce conversion opportunities. Regional leaders such as the Digital NEST, providing tech education for underrepresented communities in Watsonville, and Salinas are inspirations for identifying gaps and advancing opportunities for the region. The education arena in the DART segments is wide open, with demand from industry and the community. As the initiative continues to gain momentum we are eager to see this segment continue to engage, lead and deliver.


Industry participation in the DART initiative is equally critical and ripe with opportunity. Spanning established industry leaders, mid and early stage startup, and wholly new ventures, each segment has a role to play and will find fertile development ground throughout the Monterey Bay region. The entrepreneurship ecosystem in the Monterey Bay region has been cultivated for decades, and in the most recent years has is represented by the thriving Santa Cruz New Tech Meetup, Santa Cruz Works, Startup Monterey Bay Ecosystem (Startup Hackathon, Weekend & Challenge), Thrive Accelerator and Western Growers Innovation Center in Salinas. These communities and ongoing efforts provide ample opportunity for entrepreneurs to hone concepts, refine pitches, access mentors, legal and financial services, and secure seed and growth funding from increasingly sophisticated venture capital networks. The initiative is also focused on advocating for continued improvement to airspace and facilities access. These critical elements of DART innovation are long-lead efforts, which if well timed and placed contribute to steady cluster development. As a regional initiative, DART will maintain awareness of demand and opportunity for such facilities and continue working to advocate for improvement.


Government participation and leadership in the DART initiative is likewise critical. From Local to Federal, there are multiple touch points for effective, efficient governance, policy and funding support. Locally, governments can continue to recognize the jobs growth potential of the DART segments, and plan land use and development strategies accordingly. For example, there is current and future demand for flexible light industrial type development to accommodate small to large DART companies. At the State level, continued support from University of California, California State University, and California Community College leadership can help rapidly advance new curriculum development to meet growing industry demand for specialized skills and expertise across a wide array of technical positions. At the Federal level, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plays a lead role in empowering safe and secure integration of drones into the National Air Space (NAS). Continuing to support advancement of commercial access to the NAS is critical. In addition, agencies such as the Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (EDA) can provide funding to de-risk private equity investment in critical infrastructure, through smart deployment of seed-funding and feasibility studies. Finally, the Department of Defense and Homeland Security represent the leading markets for drone technology. As such, increasing access for entrepreneurs and innovators to department needs and innovation programs will allow the Monterey Bay region to extend its rich military and homeland security history into the next century.


The Monterey Bay DART initiative is a regional economic development strategy focused on realizing new venture formation, business attraction and jobs growth in these current and future growth, clean tech industry segments. It builds on efforts across sectors and the region to strengthen technical education, career pathways, public and private partnerships working towards regional vitality. The initiative involves academia, industry and government and is gaining momentum.

There are multiple ways to become engaged with the DART initiative:

  • Visit Monterey Bay DART to register for regular news updates;
  • Join the Monterey Bay DART Meetup. The Inaugural Meetup will be held 5-8pm Tuesday Feb 12 at the University of California Monterey Bay Education Science and Technology (UCMBEST) center;
  • Plan to attend the first Monterey Bay DART Symposium, currently scheduled for Friday June 21, 2019, at UCMBEST. Watch our website for upcoming details.
  • Contact Josh Metz, Economic Development Manager at the Fort Ord Reuse Authority for more information and related questions (


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