Thursday, September 20, 2007

Urban Waters Innovations Zone

At the Chamber's Port-Industrial Committee meeting (9-19-07), the City of Tacoma Community and Economic Development Department and the University of Washington Tacoma presented their forthcoming concept and grant application: Innovation Partnership Zone Designation and Capital Grant Application.


SHB 1091, passed by the Washington State Legislature in 2007, mandates that the State Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development (CTED) designate Innovation partnership Zones (IPZs) every October. IPZs are research and development parks that possess, or show substantial planning toward:

  • commercially valuable research capacity (such as a university, national lab);

  • globally competitive firms in a research-based industry; and

  • education/training capacity

In addition to awarding IPZ designations, the legislation provides for an IPZ grant program to provide funding to improve commercialization facilities within an IPZ. Grants may also be used to facilitate the collaboration between research teams, industry and workforce training providers that will lead to the formation and financing of new innovative firms, the commercialization of research results,and the movement of firms and industry clusters into globally competitive niches. Five communities will be selected to receive one-time grant awards of $1 million each.


On July 25, 2007, CTED mailed out applications to potentially interested parties. CTED conducted teleconferences and live meetings during the last week of July. Final application submittals were due September 17, 2007. On October 1, the CTED director will announce IPZ designated zones and grant awards. By mid-October, CTED expects to send out designation notices and grant contracts.


IPZ Boundaries

CTED encouraged applicants to develop small zones that provide opportunities for collaboration and exchange. City of Tacoma staff, in partnership with their counterparts at the University of Washington Tacoma and the Port of Tacoma, identified a potential boundary designed to meet the application criteria of CTED. The proposed IPZ is a compact, contiguous area of about 121 gross acres with logical natural and human-made boundaries: To the west is the Thea Foss Waterway, north is Commencement Bay, east is the Middle Waterway and a right of way, and south is East 15th Street. The Zone will be attractive to businesses seeking to relocate or establish new offices -- set on the waterfront with views of the city, Mt. Rainier and Commencement Bay. It also benefits from proximity to downtown Tacoma's commercial zone, port operations and the UW Tacoma campus. The Zone benefits by having a large supply of available property that is owned by either the City of the Port or is listed for sale or lease. Businesses currently located in the zone will coexist with Zone partner businesses. There will be no change in zoning, land-use regulations, etc.

The boundaries were selected to include the City's Environmental Services building, the Center for Urban Waters, a state-of-the-art building to be located in the Innovation Partnership Zone.

IPZ Program Concept

The IPZ will focus on research and local strengths in the areas of applied environmental research and computer science-based research to improve port navigation and security. The City's Center for Urban Waters will house its environmental labs and serve as the hub of the IPZ. It will also house the Urban Waters marine research center, whose mission is to develop solutions to the problems facing urban bay communities. The research of the IPZ, contributed by UW Tacoma primarily through its Environmental Science and Institute of Technology faculty, will focus on the following priority areas:

  • Ballast water and invasive species

  • Urban water runoff technology

  • Information systems-based port navigation systems

  • Cyber-security and computer-based port security initiatives

  • Marine biotechnology

  • Aquaculture

Solutions to these problems are key to the continued economic development of the Puget Sound region. They also have applications to port cities across the nation and around the globe. The IPZ was designed to leverage the Port's strong national and international connections.

The UW Tacoma Institute of Technology will be an active partner in the Zone with an initial emphasis on research to develop port navigation and port security systems. The Institute is part of a national "Center of Excellence in Information Assurance Education," as designated by the National Security Agency (NSA).

The UW Tacoma Innovation Zone office in the Center for Urban Waters will coordinate activities and direct partners to resources, such as access to the UW Tech Transfer office, educational programs for technology entrepreneurs, and the pursuit of further grant support. It will also coordinate regular meetings of IPZ partners, designed to generate synergies and efficiencies in the process of transforming research-based ideas and inventions into marketable products and services. IPZ grant funds would establish the UW Tacoma Innovation Zone office that will feature a video conferencing wall and other technology that will allow partners to meet with colleagues around the globe.

The Port is a major property owner in the Zone. The Port will seek to align its marketing efforts for the development of approximately 22 acres of recently acquired real estate to support the goals of the Innovation Partnership Zone. The Port already participates with the Institute of Technology in the port navigation and port security system development.

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