Autonomous Marine Systems wins business plan competition

Research and development prospect Autonomous Marine Systems, that has received a $1.6 million Tobacco Commission grant to locate in the Southern Virginia Product Advancement Center (former Daystrom building) at Greens Folly, also has been named the second place energy winner of $175,000 in the first-ever Virginia Velocity Business Plan Competition.

Governor Terry McAuliffe announced Tuesday the winners of the competition that provided $850,000 to five companies in the bioscience and energy sectors that were looking to expand their business in Virginia.

Autonomous Marine Systems Inc. is a marine data company changing the way the world explores and studies the oceans. Using a patented low-cost, fully autonomous sailboat, Autonomous Marine Systems delivers persistent ocean intelligence anywhere around the world at one-tenth of the cost of existing services. The systems emit zero carbon dioxide and do not risk human life.

Autonomous Marine Systems supports development of the company's next generation Datamaran and was founded seven years ago by two Princeton educated engineers and businessmen, who are currently partnering with MIT, DARPA and a host of energy industries to develop a fleet of autonomous water craft to collect oceanographic data for the energy, defense and weather industries.

When fully commercialized, AMS is projected to bring approximately 47 high paying, advanced manufacturing and technical jobs to Southern Virginia.

The Datamaran addresses a need that is unfulfilled in the marine industry: inexpensive and reliable oceanographic data from remote locations that are useful for a broad spectrum of applications.

AMS founders T.J. Edwards and Eamon Carrig are busy raising capital with their investors right now and going through due diligence with that.

Once they have that in place, county industrial development authority leaders will begin working on the grant which will be used to put them in the front section of the former Daystrom building.

They are expected to become operational in the next quarter or so, according to Southern Virginia Product Advancement Center Executive Director Dr. Doug Corrigan.

Speaking about Tuesday's announcement at an event in Richmond, the governor said, "I am thrilled to announce the winners of Virginia Velocity, the first statewide business plan competition. It is critical to support, attract and retain entrepreneurs in Virginia as startup firms are an important source of job sector growth in urban, rural and suburban communities. Virginia Velocity is one of our strategies to catalyze entrepreneurism and build a new Virginia economy."

"The commonwealth boasts tremendous assets that allow our talent to not only create, but sustain businesses, and Virginia Velocity gives us the opportunity to recognize those assets," said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones. "The competition also gives us the opportunity to reflect on what we need to do to cement Virginia's reputation as the best place in the country for entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses."

In July, Virginia Velocity received 39 applications from entrepreneurs along the East Coast seeking next-level funding to expand their bioscience or energy business.

A panel of more than 40 judges reviewed the applications and narrowed the pool to 10 semi-finalists, five in the bioscience sector and five in the energy sector. The top four finalists presented their plans to a panel of five guest judges, and the fifth finalist received recognition as the honorable mention at the event in Richmond.

Winning companies must sign a performance contract prior to receiving any money from the business plan competition. This requires them to locate in Virginia for at least two years and have an office operating in Virginia by Jan. 1.

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