In 1962, some of the best and brightest minds in the world gathered in Washington State to predict what life would be like in the 21st century. Their wild predictions? wall-sized TV screens, cordless power tools, audiobooks, digital libraries, home computers and even a phone you could put in your pocket.
Fast forward to 2019, and these seemingly crazy predictions are pretty spot on. So what are Washington’s visionaries up to these days? For starters, they’re electrifying transportation networks, seeking cures for cancer, zeroing out the state’s carbon footprint, exploring the promises of quantum computing and artificial intelligence, and setting their sights on the moon and beyond.
Blessed with a unique pioneer spirit, a passion for collaboration, boundless creativity and a penchant for seeing things as they can be rather than as they are, Washington’s entrepreneurs and businesses continue to shape the world as we know it, from how we shop and travel to how we explore the heavens.
A Clean, Clear Commitment
Washington has long been a leader in environmental stewardship. At the turn of the 20th century, pioneers turned trees into an agricultural crop and harnessed the state’s rivers to create a power grid that is both clean and renewable.
In 2019, the state legislature passed legislation mandating that 100 percent of Washington’s energy come from clean power sources by 2045, creating new opportunities in power generation, alternative fuels, energy storage and grid management.
To that end, the state is electrifying its fleet of ferries and building a new Maritime Innovation Center as part of its Maritime BLUE initiative. In the aerospace sector, newcomer MagniX is developing electric motors that will be able to power passenger aircraft cleanly and safely.
With 14,000 technology companies and more than 1,000 life science organizations in Washington, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the two industries have a long history of collaboration. Thanks to this confluence of know-how, Washington created the first kidney dialysis machines, heart defibrillators and ultrasound technologies, blurring the lines between tech and healthcare.
A robust community of startups feeds new ideas into the healthcare ecosystem. This includes hundreds of medical device companies that are taking advantage of the state’s expertise in software, big data, cloud computing, engineering and hardware. A good example of this melding of technology and life science is OtoNexus’ new Doppler Ultrasound otoscope. This new device allows doctors to differentiate between viral and bacterial ear infections quickly and non-invasively. The result: more accurate diagnoses and reduced use of antibiotics.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance researchers are using natural language processing (NLP) to train algorithms to identify and record genomic biomarkers for specific lung cancers. The use of artificial intelligence increases the efficiency and accuracy of identifying specific mutations so customized oral therapies can be used as a first-line treatment instead of traditional radiation and chemotherapy.
Plenty of Space.
Washington has been a major player in the race to space since the dawn of the Space Age. Not too far away from where the Lunar Rover was built by Boeing in the 1970s, Blue Origin is more than doubling the size of its Kent, Washington headquarters. There, the company is conducting research and development on a new generation of reusable space systems, including the New Glenn rocket and Blue Moon lunar lander.
In Redmond, SpaceX is producing Starlink satellites that will provide global Internet access. Across town, Aerojet Rocketdyne, which has designed and built thousands of rocket engines since the 1960s, inked a $170 million contract with NASA to provide thrusters for the upcoming Artemis moon missions. In Seattle, Spaceflight Industries has revolutionized launch and mission management services, purchasing previously unused cargo space on rockets to carry smaller customer payloads.
A Natural Choice.
Washington’s early economy was driven by the nation’s need for lumber as it continued its expansion westward. A century later, the industry is turning managed forests products into cross-laminated timber, or CLT. This new building material requires less energy to produce than concrete and lowers construction CO2 emissions, sequestering carbon in the finished structure. Two new mills have opened in Washington to produce CLT panels and beams, which use smaller-diameter trees that once were unsuitable for harvest. Stronger than steel, CLT gives builders a new option that adds beauty and strength to structures up to 18 stories high.
An Autonomous World.
Washington is spearheading the use of autonomous and robotic technologies on many fronts. Last year, Cruise Automation, General Motors’ autonomous ride-hailing subsidiary, opened an engineering office in Washington. Similarly, Kenworth is working on autonomous trucks to transport goods safely and efficiently on the nation’s highways. To test these technologies, Pacific Motorsports Park and Innovation Center opened a new R&D/manufacturing complex for autonomous vehicles, built around a historic 2.25 mile road-course track south of Seattle.
Boeing continues to be a leader in the innovative use of robotics on the factory floor, including the use of robots to apply composite fiber to aircraft structures and add the final coats of paint to 777X wings. Robots are even finding their way into the state’s orchards and vineyards. Faced with a growing shortage of pickers, farmers are using robotic harvesters to pick berries, apples, grapes and other fragile fruits.
A Creative Economy.
Washington’s reputation for breathtaking innovation is well deserved. The state’s culture of creativity and collaboration allows the best ideas to rapidly rise to the surface and make their way to market. The close proximity of major players in information and communication technology, aerospace, life science, maritime, advanced manufacturing and clean energy blur the lines between industries, creating new opportunities that redefine entire markets. Perhaps that explains why more than 100 of the most innovative companies from around the world have opened engineering and R&D offices in Washington State in the last few years.
For more information about doing business with and in Washington State, contact the economic development team at +1 (206) 256-6100, visit ChooseWashingtonState.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.