Microsoft president identifies links between life sciences and IT, promotes Cascadia Innovation Corridor. A strategy for economic vitality.

Geek Wire reporter Clare McGrane writes,

A life sciences conference isn’t the first place you’d expect to find Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith.

But that’s precisely where he was Tuesday morning, and he had an important message for the life sciences industry: if it wants to scale up, it should look to our neighbors to the north.

Speaking at Life Science Innovation Northwest in downtown Seattle, Smith reiterated the points of the Cascadia Innovation Corridor initiative, a push for greater collaboration between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., which are less than 150 miles apart.

We’ve previously written about the corridor here and here

McGrane continues,

“When you think about the various parts of the economy that are driving technology forward here in Puget Sound, it’s natural for somebody at Microsoft to think about cloud computing and information technology. But there are many important parts of this economy — life sciences is a vital part,” Smith told GeekWire after his talk.

“I think it’s another leg of the stool, together with IT and aerospace, that are helping to move this entire region forward.”

The spring 2016 edition of Washington Business, the Association of Washington Business’s quarterly magazine, examined Washington’s technology industries. The life sciences sector, as Smith says, is indeed a vital part.

The life sciences sector also drives the state’s tech economy. WRC economist Kriss Sjoblom has done several economic impact analyses for Life Science Washington (formerly the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association).

…The WRC found the sector directly employs more than 36,300 people, the state’s fth-largest employment sector. Nearly 900 life science employers are located in 92 cities across the state. These high-wage positions — cancer researchers, biologists, statisticians, — make significant contributions to the local economies in which they participate.

In the article, Sjoblom makes a point similar to that made by the Microsoft president.

He calls [the life science sector’s] strength in the region a natural alignment of existing resources, expertise and clusters. “It’s using the electronics and data on life sciences problems. It makes sense that we would have a lot of activity on the boundary between traditional tech and traditional biotech.”

In a highly competitive world, building on the strengths and interconnections of the region’s dominant economic clusters – and expanding the boundaries of what we consider the region – sounds like a winning strategy.