Commercial

US, Canadian Tech Innovation Effort Expands Initiatives with Microsoft Support

By S.L. Fuller | September 13, 2017

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The Cascadia Innovation Corridor has introduced a suite of new initiatives, Microsoft Corp. said. Announcements include:

  • Three internationally recognized polytechnics have joined forces to provide industry aligned, high-skill talent for the Cascadia Corridor's workforce needs
  • Expansion of the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX) to include the University of British Columbia
  • Launch of the Seattle-Vancouver Financial Innovation Network
  • Progress on transportation connecting the Cascadia region
  • A new cross-border startup accelerator partnership among British Columbia, Washington and Oregon

The Cascadia Innovation Corridor was launched September 2016 in Vancouver, British Columbia. It includes participants from aviation and aeronautics; software development; cloud computing; online retailing; big data transmission, storage and analysis; the Internet of Things; mobile communications; biotechnology and the life sciences; and global health. The corridor focuses on creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship and aims to create new economic opportunities in British Columbia and Washington State.

British Columbia Institute of Technology, Lake Washington Institute of Technology and Oregon Institute of Technology are the three polytechnics joining forces. They plan to collaborate and leverage their applied education offerings in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. They also aim to provide expanded professional practice for students and career opportunities for graduates by leveraging the corridor.

GIX is a leadership development initiative that involves global partnership between major research universities and corporations with the hopes of fostering innovation. The University of Washington and Tsinghua University in Beijing are founding partners, with support from Microsoft. Now, University of British Columbia is a new academic network member. Microsoft said more academic partners are to be announced in the near future.

The Seattle-Vancouver Financial Innovation Network is set to be launched in the fourth quarter of 2017. Microsoft and Madrona Venture Group are supporters. The network would bring together Cascadia Corridor financial services and technology companies, and relevant U.S. and Canadian regulatory authorities, to establish an integrated international financial center (IFC). The first programs would include promotion of coordinated digital economy cross-border investments with an emphasis on fintech, mixed reality, artificial intelligence, intelligent apps and quantum computing. In the long term, the network aims to create an integrated financial services cluster that would compete directly with other similar-sized IFCs, such as Boston, Dublin, Shenzhen, Munich and Melbourne.

Washington state is studying the feasibility for a potential high-speed rail line that would connect the Cascadia region. Microsoft said it is donating $50,000 to supplement the $300,000 in state funding approved for the study. Harbour Air and Kenmore Air are also collaborating on a new seaplane route that would link Seattle and Vancouver. Microsoft said a final announcement is expected later this year.

The startup accelerator partnership would be known as the Cascadia Innovation Network. It would initially include business incubators, accelerators and universities. Later, it could expand to include venture capital firms and other partners. A memorandum of understanding is planned that would 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.

"Last year we came together as a region to build something that we simply can't create apart: an innovation corridor to create more opportunity and prosperity on both sides of the border,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft president. “By linking our two cities together through cross-border collaboration, research, funding and educational opportunities, we will spur new economic activity and opportunity that creates a better future for everyone."

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