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Modeling, simulation and visualization (MS&V) enterprises provided almost 4,500 high-wage jobs and an economic output worth $365 million to the Hampton Roads region in 2007, according to a new study that shows MS&V to be one of Virginia's fastest growing high-technology fields.

The regional economic output of MS&V grew by 41 percent and regional MS&V employment rose 25 percent over the past three years, the study shows. It also forecasts a regional MS&V employment increase averaging 14.5 percent a year through 2012.

Workers in MS&V in Hampton Roads now earn an average annual salary of about $83,000, up by 37 percent since 2004 and more than double the average for all Hampton Roads workers.

"This is a revealing study that shows the significant impact of the modeling and simulation sector in Hampton Roads," said Gov. Timothy Kaine.

Angle Technology, a research and consulting firm with offices in Charlottesville and Portsmouth, performed the study at the request of the Old Dominion University Research Foundation, the Hampton Roads Partnership, the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission also was involved in the effort, conducting economic-impact analysis.

Kaine gave credit to ODU's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC) for helping to make MS&V a growth industry in Hampton Roads. "We are using the technology developed and used at VMASC to save lives in the medical field and to model evacuation procedures," Kaine said, offering two examples of the research and development focuses of VMASC.

VMASC, which ODU founded in 1997 and which moved last year into a new $11.6 million facility in the Churchland area at the Portsmouth-Suffolk border, trains graduate students in MS&V and also serves as a research and development center that supports government/military entities and private industry. It acts as an incubator for entrepreneurial activities in MS&V, often assisting in business startups.

MS&V comprises numerous planning, analysis and training tools made possible by sophisticated computing. These tools can suggest and test concepts, minimizing reliance upon trial and error, and they can present information in ways that enhance comprehension. For example, the tools might teach a medical student how to perform a surgical procedure without putting an actual patient in harm's way. Other applications are seen in simulations to test aircraft designs, in vehicular traffic models to simulate-and improve-flow at highway interchanges, in video games to teach algebra and in models to predict the performance of a soldier or an athlete. Artificial intelligence, robotics and virtual environments also are part of MS&V.

MS&V growth in the region reflects the support of leaders in government, education and industry who believe Virginia, and especially Hampton Roads, can become an international leader in this high-technology field.

"These are high-skill, high-wage jobs that any region in the country would be proud to have," said former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, whose administration from 2001-05 generated critical seed money for MS&V research and development in Hampton Roads. "All of our partners-public and private, military, federal, state, regional and local-should be proud of what we have been able to accomplish by working together."

Added ODU President Roseann Runte, under whose administration VMASC has made its most significant strides, "This shows that the commonweath's initiative in modeling and simulation has proven to have been a wise investment by governors Warner and Kaine, and by members of the House of Delegates and Senate, including John Cosgrove (a delegate from Chesapeake) who now chairs a statewide Modeling and Simulation Commission."

For the 2007 study, and for another similar study that Angle Technology performed in 2004, private-industry and public-sector employers involved in MS&V activities in Hampton Roads were asked a series of questions to generate basic data. Standard computer processing models were then used to interpret the data. The standard model used for the 2007 study was more up-to-date than the model used in 2004, so in order to provide comparisons the 2004 data were re-run on the updated model.

The findings of the study were hailed by Kaine, Warner, Runte and other regional leaders as overwhelmingly positive. Some highlights of the MS&V progress in Hampton Roads between 2004 and 2007:

Annual gross regional product of MS&V work is $238 million, up 42 percent. Job growth is on a path to rise at about 7.3 percent over 2008-09, which is slightly below what the original study predicted for the same time period. But the new analysis forecasts average annual job growth to pick up at the end of the decade so that the average growth for the next five years will be 14.5 percent annually.

Survey respondents foresee emerging MS&V opportunities in games for education, medical modeling, emergency management and homeland security, port operations, transportation network models and unmanned autonomous vehicle simulations.

Dana Dickens, president of the Hampton Roads Partnership, said the study provides validation for the region's efforts to build the MS&V industry. "We're pleased but not surprised by the significant growth in this important industry," said Dickens. "Anecdotally, we have seen a significant increase in interest and participation in various regional MS&V industry development efforts. And this participation has come from all across Hampton Roads, highlighting the regional nature of the MS&V industry. The study confirms these observations."

The state's secretary of commerce and trade, Patrick Gottschalk, called MS&V "one of the fastest growing clusters" in the Virginia economy. "Led by ODU's VMASC, the modeling and simulation sector is on the fast track in Virginia," he added.

"VMASC is pleased with the role it plays as a catalyst for growth in the modeling, simulation and visualization sector in the region," said Michael McGinnis, the retired brigadier general who has been executive director of ODU's VMASC since June 2006. "With the opening of our new facility, we gain the ability to train more students and to step up our efforts in research and development."

The 2007 survey, which is based on the responses of 53 organizations, shows that 43 percent of the private-sector respondents have opened their operations in Hampton Roads since VMASC was founded. Also according to the 2007 survey, more than 90 percent of the private-sector respondents have fewer than 100 MS&V-related employees and less than $50 million in annual sales. Even more indicative of the startup nature of the MS&V industry in the region, more than half of the private-sector respondents reported having 10 or fewer employees as well as less than $10 million in annual sales.

Warner and Runte noted that the latest findings indicate the MS&V initiative in Hampton Roads faces new challenges. Most survey respondents reported concern about their ability to find employees adequately trained in MS&V and about the lack of an MS&V infrastructure in the region.

"Government has to be the spark for MS&V, but the private sector has to take the ball and run with it," the former governor said.

Runte said, "This study shows Virginia's return on investment for modeling and simulation is almost 300 percent, and I am proud of the great strides this industry has made in such a short time. Yet we acknowledge the work ahead if our region and Virginia are to keep stride with states such as Florida, Alabama and Georgia that are outspending us to promote modeling and simulation."

Mohammad Karim, ODU's vice president for research, said most of the university's MS&V activities in the past have involved military projects. "But we now have two additional clusters, medical and social science MS&V, and will be adding soon an MS&V cluster in transportation. We are poised to contribute to further economic impact in years to come in the region."

The northern tip of Suffolk has been dubbed "Sim City" because of its concentration of simulation-related facilities, agencies and industries. In addition to ODU's VMASC, Lockheed Martin Corp., General Dynamics Corp., Raytheon Co. and Science Applications International Corp. have a presence in the region. Altogether, about 50 businesses and industries, ranging from the large Northrop Grumman in Newport News to the small WernerAnderson Inc. in Gloucester, are VMASC industry members. Sim City also is home to the Joint Forces Command's Joint Warfighting Center, a research arm of the Pentagon.

ODU, through its Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology and VMASC, conferred the world's first engineering Ph.D. in modeling and simulation in 2003.

A survey released last year by AeA, the nation's largest trade association representing all segments of the high-tech industry, found Virginia to be the state with the nation's highest concentration (almost 9 percent) of private-sector, high-tech workers. The same survey listed Virginia as second in the nation in rate of growth of high-tech industries.

This article was posted on: January 4, 2008

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