Second Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference Kicks Off Today in Seattle, Significant Progress Made in First Year

The Cascadia Innovation Conference begins today in Seattle. We’ve written about this innovative cross-border collaboration previously. The inaugural conference, held in Vancouver last September, garnered excellent national recognition and editorial endorsement. A year later, the second conference further advances the effort.

The press release about the conference includes several major accomplishments announced today. (We recommend reading the full release, which includes statements from civic, business and governmental leaders participating in the event.)

By focusing on research, economic development and transportation, the Cascadia Innovation Corridor is enhancing greater connectivity, productivity and innovation for the nearly 12 million people living in British Columbia and Washington State.

Announcements today include these:

  • Three internationally recognized polytechnics have joined forces to provide industry aligned, high-skill talent for the Cascadia Corridor’s workforce needs. British Columbia Institute of Technology, Lake Washington Institute of Technology and Oregon Institute of Technology will collaborate to leverage their applied education offerings in high-demand STEM fields, and provide expanded professional practice for students and career opportunities for graduates within the Corridor’s path of influence.
  • Expansion of the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX) to include the University of British Columbia. GIX is a global partnership between major research universities and innovative corporations to develop leaders in innovation. The University of Washington and Tsinghua University in Beijing are founding partners, with support from Microsoft Corp. GIX is expanding to include the University of British Columbia as an academic network member, building a bridge across the Pacific between the Cascadia Corridor and China, and between the higher-education community and the business community in a manner that benefits students. More academic network partners will be announced shortly.
  • Seattle-Vancouver Financial Innovation Network. Set to be launched in Q4 of 2017 with support from Microsoft and Madrona Venture Group, the Seattle-Vancouver Financial Innovation Network (FIN) will bring together leading Cascadia Corridor financial services and technology companies and relevant U.S. and Canadian regulatory authorities to establish an integrated international financial center (IFC). Initial FIN programs will include promotion of coordinated digital economy cross-border investments with an emphasis on fintech, mixed reality, artificial intelligence, intelligent apps and quantum computing. The long-term FIN strategic objective is the creation of an integrated financial services cluster that competes directly with other similar-sized IFCs, such as Boston, Dublin, Shenzhen, Munich and Melbourne. 
  • Progress on transportation connecting the Cascadia region
  • The state of Washington is performing an in-depth feasibility study for a potential high-speed rail line that would connect the Cascadia region. Microsoft is donating $50,000 to supplement the $300,000 in state funding approved for the study.
  • In addition, Harbour Air and Kenmore Air are working together on a new seaplane route linking Seattle and Vancouver, with a final announcement expected later this year.
  • A new cross-border startup accelerator partnership among British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. The Canadian Consulate General in Seattle, representing the government of Canada, has brought innovation partners in the three regions together to establish the Cascadia Innovation Network (CIN), which initially will include business incubators, accelerators and universities, but may later include venture capital firms and other innovation partners. The CIN focuses on bringing innovative ideas to the public by introducing startups to cross-border funding and support opportunities. A new memorandum of understanding will initially bring together the University of Washington (Co-Motion), Washington State University, Cambia Grove, Oregon Health and Science University, Oregon Translational Research & Development Institute (OTRADI), Portland State University Business Accelerator, Innovation Boulevard (BC Health Tech Accelerator), University of British Columbia (e@entrepreneurship), Accelerate Okanagan, Wavefront, and Foresight.

Writing in the Seattle Times, Gov. Jay Inslee says,

Cascadia is the strong and enduring ties between two remarkable countries, and between a forward-looking state and province with shared values, connected economies and a beautiful natural landscape that knows no boundaries.

We are stronger when we collaborate. It’s why Washington state and British Columbia joined together to form the Cascadia Innovation Corridor last year, and it’s an honor to welcome our friends from British Columbia to the Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference this fall in Seattle.

Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, also has an op-ed in the Seattle Times endorsing the Cascadia Innovation Corridor.

Tech is among the fastest-growing industries in British Columbia, which has the most robust economy in Canada. B.C. recently eclipsed 100,000 tech jobsin the province, a milestone that even a few years ago would have seemed improbable…

The Cascadia Innovation Corridor – an ambitious initiative to get companies, universities and governments on both sides of the border working closer together – is a key to sustaining this momentum. Strengthening connectivity in technology, transportation and education opens the door to the potential to transform Cascadia into a global hub for innovation and research – not to mention set the 12 million people living in British Columbia and Washington state on the path toward a prosperous future.

For more on this important initiative, read the program, which includes statements from Microsoft president and CLO Brad Smith and John Horgan, premier of British Columbia, in addition to those of Inslee and Holmes. There’s also an excellent overview of how the Cascadia Innovation Corridor can become a world-class innovation hub. 

We look forward to their continued success.