The Washington State Department of Commerce was awarded a $500,000 grant through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program to support Washington Maritime Blue 2050, a statewide vision for creating and expanding the nation’s most sustainable ocean industry and technology cluster. Every federal dollar is matched with state and local funds.

The ‘Blue Economy’ is taking off around the world, from ships humming with electric engines to port efficiency and automation and the first zero-emission terminal now under construction. Studies predict that in coming decades, scientific and technological advances will play a crucial role in addressing ocean-related environmental challenges and ocean-based economic activities.

“Maritime activity has long been a pillar of Washington state’s economy,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “Today we are uniquely poised to lead the country in maritime clean tech innovation and best management practices that create living-wage jobs, a healthy environment, and resilient communities.”

Every segment of the state’s $37.8 billion maritime sector will be affected by technological advances in coming years, so leaders in government, research, businesses and academic communities are working together to capitalize on prime opportunities with Washington Maritime Blue: 2050 Vision for Accelerating Innovation.

The project has three main objectives:

  • Set the course for sustainable maritime industry innovation. The Washington Maritime BLUE 2050 is a strategy to ensure Washington State is home to the most sustainable maritime industry by 2050, aligned with Governor Inslee’s plans for deep de-carbonization, innovation, and workforce development.
  • Support strong blue tech cluster coordination, forming strategic alliances, growth in trade, and increased jobs.
  • Support development of the Washington Maritime Innovation Center at the Port of Seattle, in partnership with the Port of Seattle and the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Lab.

“Receiving this grant acknowledges the strong connections created through our sector lead program to ensure our state is positioned to thrive and lead in the increasingly competitive international marketplace for maritime services,” Commerce Director Brian Bonlender said. “Washington’s maritime industry strengthens communities all over the state by employing a diverse workforce of nearly 70,000. Our goal is to build on that by creating a green, efficient, sustainable maritime sector that will serve as a model for the rest of the country.”

The $500,000 grant is matched in-kind by the Port of Seattle, which is providing space for the Washington Maritime Innovation Center, and the University of Washington Applied Physics Lab providing staff time.

The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE), housed within the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), leads the Regional Innovation Strategies Program to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation. The program is authorized through the America COMPETES reauthorization Act of 2010, and has received dedicated appropriations since fiscal year 2014.

Commerce was one of 42 organizations — including nonprofits, institutions of higher education, and entrepreneurship-focused organizations from 28 states that received over $17 million to create and expand cluster-focused proof-of-concept and commercialization programs, and early-stage seed capital funds through RIS. The awardees were selected from a pool of more than 217 applicants.