About This Initiative


Coastal Virginia will be a global leader in innovative technologies, products, and services that help residential, commercial, and industrial properties adapt to flooding, erosion, and other challenges caused by sea-level rise.

Increased flooding and high value residential, commercial, and industrial assets in vulnerable urban, suburban and rural coastal communities are growing market demand for new, cost-effective adaptation solutions. Virginia has a competitive advantage – it is experiencing flooding and erosion impacts from the highest level of relative sea-level rise on the east coast thus it is developing innovative adaptation technologies, products, and services with global applications. Growing a water adaptation economy is a priority in the GO Virginia Region 6 Growth & Diversification Plan, and Action Plan, and the Middle Peninsula’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), and aligns with the Economic Development Authority’s (EDA) equity, recovery & resilience, workforce development, technology-based economic development, and environmentally-sustainable development priorities.

In their most recent property tax assessment, rural Mathews County, VA recorded a loss of $75M in property value caused by flooding and erosion on waterfront properties.

Assets needing adaptation: Waterfront properties remain in high demand and were estimated to be worth $134B nationwide in 2018. Home sales in coastal Virginia increased 61% on the Chesapeake Bay between 2019 – 2020, and over 20% more from January – April 2021. In their most recent property tax assessment, rural Mathews County, VA recorded a loss of $75M in property value caused by flooding and erosion on waterfront properties. Businesses are impacted too; coastal shoreline counties support 37% of US jobs and contribute 46% of the GDP. Coastal Virginia is home to a growing $53M shellfish aquaculture industry and working waterfronts employ over 122,000 people, generating $8.5B of the GDP. All existing water-related infrastructure (a $650B global market) and all sectors of the shoreline economy will need to adapt, greatly increasing market demand for cost-effective adaptation technologies, products, and services.

A Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine report on the impacts of climate change concluded, “significant innovation will be required to…mitigate the impacts that coastal regions are already experiencing and are likely to experience in the future. Virginia could become a national center of expertise and innovation in this regard.”

Water Adaptation Industry Cluster & Innovation Ecosystem

Advancing Feasible Adaptation Solutions

To achieve this vision, several projects are underway through collaborations among multiple partners, including:

Supporting Entrepreneurs

  • GO Virginia: The Coastal Resilience and Adaptation Economy initiative that will foster innovation and growth in Virginia’s water economy. The project will launch a resilience entrepreneurship competition and establish a business-focused network to engage businesses and facilitate resilient practices. The project is a collaboration between Virginia Sea Grant, the nonprofit RISE, the Middle Peninsula Chesapeake Bay Public Access Authority, and Old Dominion University. The $2.9M project was funded in part by GO Virginia, a state-funded initiative administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to strengthen and diversify Virginia’s economy and foster the creation of higher-wage jobs in strategic industries.  In addition to the workforce development supported by VASG and RISE’s business plan competition, ODU is leading the development of the Coastal Virginia Consortium.  
  • The Middle Peninsula’s Fight-the-Flood (FTF) program to subsidize shoreline protection businesses’ work on coastal properties. FTF is a first in the nation approach to advance feasible adaption solutions for property owners in underserved communities.  Among the twenty-four companies in the FTF program, there are cooperative arrangements, collaborative projects, and a need for research & development (R&D) capacity to further advance innovation.

Collaborative R&D

Addressing property adaptation from a holistic, systems approach in order to achieve novel breakthroughs requires collaborative skills and competencies to integrate diverse knowledge and perspectives into innovative outcomes that transcend individual disciplines.

  • VASG—Virginia Tech partnership for a resilience design extension faculty position. This position will play a critical role, as a project coordinator and facilitator, of VASG’s GO Virginia award, and the design and implementation of collaborative public-private R&D partnerships on the network of field stations.
  • Sea Grant-CERF (Coastal Estuarine Research Federation) Design Competition, a forward-facing initiative to inspire students and faculty across disciplines to work together in proposing design solutions and innovative strategies to make our coastal environments more resilient in the face of coastal impacts of climate change. The Design Competition is also intended as a complementary way in which CERF can collaborate with local communities to problem-solve together around pressing challenges. The Design Competition will focus on a specific site in Coastal Virginia on which all design proposals must focus.
  • VASG’s NSF-funded team science training is designing, testing, and implementing capacity-building training for effective team science, effectively integrating diverse knowledge and perspectives. The deeper level of knowledge integration achieves innovative outcomes, and is facilitated by VASG’s training in visualization tactics, managing constructive conflict, effective cross-disciplinary communication and listening, and advanced taskwork and teamwork skills. 

Workforce Development

Collectively, Virginia’s community college system, universities, and professional certification programs provide outstanding discipline-specific and skill-focused education.

  • VASG and Rappahannock Community College are offering Work-Based Learning apprenticeships with water resilience and adaptation businesses, including winners of the GO Virginia business competition administered by RISE. Coupled with professional certification programs supported by non-profits and university entrepreneurship training, technician-level training and partnerships with businesses can form the backbone of the emerging water adaptation industry cluster’s workforce.
  • Wetlands Watch, Virginia Sea Grant, and the Green Building Council, Hampton Roads Chapter have joined forces to establish an adaptation research and design collaborative, linking research and education programs at Virginia universities with local governments to help implement resilient interventions. This collaborative resilience laboratory – or “Collaboratory” – aims to produce innovative adaptation tools, strategies, and designs in tidewater Virginia by linking academic community programs with real-world needs in coastal communities, helping speed adaptation, and incubating a community of practice.

Upgrading Virginia's Water Adaptation Workforce

Addressing property adaptation from a holistic, systems approach requires collaborative skills and competencies to integrate diverse knowledge and perspectives into novel, innovative outcomes. Collectively, Virginia’s community college system, universities, and professional certification programs provide outstanding discipline-specific or skill-focused education. However, collaborative teamwork skills are less prevalent; e.g., architectural and engineering firms have partnered with VASG to co-sponsor workforce development initiatives in part to advance students’ teamwork, collaboration, and knowledge integration skills. Coupled with entrepreneurship, design thinking, and other creativity- and innovation-deriving curricula, Virginia could have the best-trained workforce for the emerging water adaptation economy. Options would include:

  • Offering community college Work-Based Learning, apprenticeships, and, as appropriate, associate degrees or certifications for technician-level training and partnerships with businesses.
  • Support for university undergraduate and graduate work on adaptation R&D, including entrepreneurship training to accompany technical expertise and collaborative research with industry partners, product performance validation, and co-production of new knowledge.
  • Support for NGOs conducting certification training
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