British Columbia and Washington state look to collaborate in technology, research, and transportation

In late September of 2016, Premier Christy Clark and Gov. Jay Inslee signed a memorandum of understanding confirming a mutual interest in creating affirming their shared interest in creating regional economic opportunities for innovation in the technology sector. Vancouver, BC, and Seattle share several things: a love of the outdoors, rainy climate, and two large technology hubs. In signing the memorandum at the Emerging Cascadia Technology Corridor: A Cross-Border Conference in Vancouver, the cities have agreed to collaborate on developing a new tech corridor to encourage innovation and partnership – the Cascadia Innovation Corridor.

“Strengthening the existing tech ties between British Columbia and Washington state is a priority for both our governments. By working together, the economic opportunities, job growth and advancements in the sector will place us at the forefront of innovation,” Clark said.  

The creation of this tech corridor will encourage the expansion of high tech, life sciences, clean technology and data analytics industries across the British Columbia-Washington borders. 

During the signing of the memorandum, Clark and Inslee also discussed climate change. The two regions have collaborated previously on climate change initiatives, most notably the Pacific Coast Collaborative. As well as discussing the Cascadia Innovation Corridor and the opportunities for growth in the tech sector, the premier and the governor discussed ideas such as cutting emissions from government operations, potential collaboration on emission reduction offset and establishing credit programs to increase regional investment and interest in committing to clean energy. 

The movement towards a British Columbia-Washington technology collaboration was boosted on June 21st, when Seattle-based Microsoft president Brad Smith argued that “mixed reality” companies in Vancouver that develop programs for use in video games exemplify the potential for success behind the Cascadia Innovation Corridor, as such companies also create applications for use in health care, engineering, real estate, architecture and education.

Past a collaboration in technology, further connections between the regions have been encouraged by large scale companies such as Microsoft. In February, Microsoft invested $1 million in an Urban Analytics Cooperative at the University of B.C. to further research projects with the University of Washington in Seattle. Smith also confirmed Microsoft would support researching the possibility of building a 400 km/h high-speed rail line between Vancouver and Seattle, and perhaps as far south as Portland.

The prospect of a seaplane service between Vancouver and Seattle has also been discussed. “Can we please each get on seaplanes and end up in each other’s harbors? We can each get to Victoria on seaplanes,” Smith said. “We shouldn’t have to fly to Victoria to get across the border . . . As a company, we are prepared to book some business for our employees.”

The talk of the Cascadia Innovation Corridor has continued since last fall, and the push from Microsoft to improve British Columbia-Washington transportation and research collaboration is a step forward. With two large hubs for technology collaborating on research, expansion is being encouraged for  high tech, life sciences, clean technology and data analytics industries across the border.