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NGA building 'moonshot' lab at T-Rex incubator downtown

NGA building 'moonshot' lab at T-Rex incubator downtown

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The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency announced Wednesday that it will move some of its staff downtown to work with private-sector companies in a space called Moonshot Labs.

The lab is being built on the third floor of T-Rex, a technology incubator on Washington Avenue. T-Rex recently opened its own geospatial innovation center on the fourth floor.

NGA said it plans to open Moonshot Labs next spring. Patricia Hagen, executive director of T-Rex, said the space will house 60 to 70 people, expected to be employees of NGA or its contractors. She said NGA signed a 10-year lease.

"What they needed and what they wanted was a place where they could ring together folks in an unclassified way to meet their innovation goals," Hagen said.

Andy Dearing, who led a recent planning effort called STL GeoFutures, said the new lab should help the region attract more firms pursuing geospatial technology. "For early-stage entrepreneurs to be able to build relationships in a place like that, it can have a bi-directional benefit for both them and the NGA," he said.

Separately, the state-funded Missouri Technology Corp. is expected to announce soon that it's launching an accelerator program for geospatial startups in partnership with the NGA. MTC issued a request for proposals in July, but has yet to select a firm to run the accelerator.

The RFP mentions a budget of up to $4 million for a year-long program, with two cohorts of five to eight companies each.

It says the accelerator's goal is "to assist in the rapid development of dual-use (commercial and government) geospatial technologies and to create a pipeline of emerging geospatial solutions among the NGA, its constituents and the Greater St. Louis entrepreneurial ecosystem."

The NGA, which has more than 3,000 jobs in St. Louis, is building a new $1.7 billion western headquarters just north of downtown.

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