Information & Communication Technology
Washington State’s reputation as a global hub for information and communication technology (ICT) is well deserved. It is the birthplace of such legendary businesses as Microsoft, Amazon, F5 Networks, Zillow and Expedia and home to countless engineering offices for industry movers and shakers, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Apple, Salesforce, BestBuy, Alibaba and eBay.
All told, there are more than 18,000 ICT companies in Washington State, from the industry’s biggest names to small startups working on the next big thing. Nearly 360,000 people are employed in technology-related jobs statewide, including game developers, programmers and software engineers. Talent from around the world is drawn here by our entrepreneurial spirit, culture of collaboration and the chance to be on the ground floor of bleeding-edge innovation and experimentation in mobile, gaming, quantum computing, blockchain, augmented/virtual reality, artificial intelligence and cloud computing.
New ideas are shared rapidly within the ICT sector and across other sectors such as aerospace, life science, advanced manufacturing, clean tech, and maritime, which rely on software and hardware to drive innovation and profits. Radical approaches to age-old problems are spurring advances across the board that redefine entire markets and, on occasion, become cultural icons.
- Over the last 10 years, Washington’s tech sector employment has grown by nearly 34%.
- Tech workers make up 9.4% of the state’s total workforce, highest in the nation.
- The state leads the nation in the net percentage of new tech positions, with a gain of 7.6% last year.
- At $138.7 billion, the sector accounts for 21.8% of the state’s economy, the highest percentage in the U.S.
- Venture capital investment in tech topped $7.73 billion last year.
- Nearly 360,000 workers are employed in tech-related jobs statewide.
- 24% of total wages in Washington are tied to the technology sector.
- 57% of all services exported by the state are technology-related, nearly double second-place Massachusetts.
Washington State offers tremendous value compared to other technology centers in the U.S. The state is rich in top-tier talent and is consistently ranked at the top of best places to make a living based on taxes, cost of living, employment and workplace environment. As workers shift to a “work from anywhere” model, they are searching for quaint communities that are affordable and safe yet close to urban centers and connectivity. Washington offers them countless choices, from rural enclaves surrounded by natural wonders to waterfront communities a stone’s throw from Seattle’s bustling metropolis.
Washington’s ecosystem of innovation and invention in the ICT space is fed by venture capitalists, angels, incubators and workspaces to support rapid prototyping and growth. The sector is also supported by several world-class research universities and a national laboratory – one of only 10 in the United States. It’s not uncommon in major innovation hubs to find bold new startups opening right across the street from the founder’s former employer. This unique blend of culture, collaboration, creativity and innovation keeps the industry fresh and ever-changing.
An excellent example is the state’s new Enterprise Digital Growth Ecosystem Cluster, which brings together developers, business visionaries, academia and government agencies to advance this Innovation Cluster Accelerator Program (ICAP). EDGE uses edge computing and 5G to digitally transform agriculture, energy and utilities, healthcare, manufacturing, transportation and logistics.
Thanks to its long history of international trade, Washington is the #1 exporter of technology products and services in the U.S. Nearly 60% of all services exported are technology-related, twice as much as Massachusetts and Oregon, which rank second and third in a recent Information Technology Industry Council report.
One of the state’s major tech exports is gaming. More than 23,000 people work in the game industry in Washington, working for such stalwarts as Valve, PopCap, Big Fish, Microsoft and Nintendo. Together, these companies command almost a fifth of the world’s direct gaming revenue. Add in our historical passion for traditional games that have taken the world by storm, such as Magic, Pictionary and Cranium, and you can see why Washington is such a dominant force in gaming.
To ensure a steady supply of top-tier talent, the business community works closely with educators to align curriculum with emerging industry needs. An excellent example of this level of partnership is the new Bill & Melinda Gates Center for Computer Science & Engineering, which is adjacent to the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. The Gates Center doubles the annual degree production for the University of Washington. It houses a sophisticated maker space, robotics lab, computer animation capstone workrooms and a wet lab for leading-edge research in molecular information systems.
As an ICT company doing business in Washington, you’ll be in outstanding company. The state is the leading economy in cloud computing, big data, blockchain and AI. There’s plenty of room for newcomers, whether you’re a one-person startup bent on reinventing online entertainment or a large firm overseas that wants to tap into our world-renowned talent pool and culture of collaboration.
Workforce Training Resources
- Directory of Community and Technical College Information and Computing Technology Programs
- University of Washington, Department of Computer Science and Engineering
- DigiPen Institute of Technology
- Seattle University, College of Computer Science and Engineering
- Washington State University, The School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
- Bellevue Community College, Digital Media Arts Program
Areas of Focus
Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI)
With a market potential of up to $15.7 trillion by 2030, artificial intelligence and machine learning will create new opportunities for established businesses and startups. The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Seattle has been a global leader in AI research since 2014, and Microsoft has moved quickly to integrate AI into its line of products, including its Microsoft 365 suite and Bing search engine, following its purchase of ChatGPT. AI promises to profoundly impact healthcare, telecom and routine, human-intensive work such as customer service, coding and automation. The state is already a central hub for artificial intelligence and machine learning. It is creating a wide range of new products and services that take advantage of AI, from autonomous vehicles and AI analysis of lab imaging to virtual assistants for legal firms.
5G, Edge Computing and Digital Transformation
5G and edge computing are driving innovations and opportunities on the factory floor, allowing machine-to-machine communications and new levels of automation. The 5G Open Innovation Lab in Bellevue has brought innovators and the industry together to conduct proof-of-concept testing on new ideas in telecommunications, maritime and manufacturing. An excellent example of this work can be found in the development of a private cellular 5G network at the Port of Tacoma that allows safer, more secure and more efficient movement of cargo. Washington companies are also working on the digital transformation of legacy systems, using edge computing and the cloud to improve the responsiveness and use of data. Bringing computing and data storage closer together reduces latency, which is critical to improving safety in connected vehicles and networks.
Washington is the birthplace of cloud computing, anchored by the two largest cloud computing services in the world – Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. Combined, they command a 54% share of the cloud computing market. This shouldn’t be surprising, given the state’s leadership in high-tech, from gaming and e-commerce to data storage and large-scale computing.
If you’ve connected to the Internet in some remote location that used to get zero bars, you can thank Washington State. Roughly half of all low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites are manufactured by SpaceX. Amazon will soon join them with Project Kuiper, which manufactures satellites in Kirkland, not far from SpaceX’s Starlink facility.
Technology is changing the healthcare industry on many fronts, including “digital biology” to map RNA and proteins and improve immunotherapy protocols. An excellent example is the partnership between Microsoft and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center to develop technology to help patients manage their chemotherapy side effects more effectively, reducing the need to go to the emergency room as often. Other companies are focused on developing new biodevices to improve patient care and outcomes, such as disposable sensors that can triage many patients simultaneously through a centralized reporting center.
Washington’s maritime industry is a significant beneficiary of the state’s information and communication technology leadership. ICT firms are leading the way in digitally transforming Washington’s maritime industry through machine learning-based analytics and the integration of 5G into port operations. Perhaps more importantly, technology companies are working hand-in-hand with the industry to reduce carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2050 by improving carbon capture, increasing the use of smart metering for vessel engines and electrifying commercial and transportation fleets, including the state’s ferries.
To address climate change, fragile power grids and the need for new energy sources that don’t rely on fossil fuels, Washington’s clean technology sector is working on multiple fronts, from improving the efficiencies on the factory floor, using 5G drones to monitor crops and exploring sustainable and renewable fuel sources that use technology to reduce costs, improve analytics, monitor network efficiencies and lower carbon emissions, including big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Connect with one of our ICT experts.
Businesses in the state have been instrumental in putting a cellphone in one hand and latte in the other, ushered in the age of personal computing, and redefined what it means to go to the “store.”
If you’re looking for a dynamic, can-do culture of creativity where top talent can step right in and turn out amazing products and services that redefine the world, Washington is waiting for you. Whether you’re a one-person startup bent on reinventing online entertainment or a multinational firm that wants to expand or invest in the U.S., our business experts in Washington State’s Department of Commerce are here to help. We’ll be happy to help you take the next steps, answer all your questions and lend you our expertise so you can gain the competitive edge.
Call us at (206) 256-6100 or email one of our business experts on the top right to learn more about our thriving information and communication technology sector and how Washington is leading the way in finding innovative solutions to tomorrow’s challenges.
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