Cross-border partnership brings together government, academia and business leaders to catalyze innovation and grow prosperity.

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At last fall’s inaugural Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference, held in Vancouver, the Boston Consulting Group released a study highlighting how major city-regions around the world are becoming centers of innovation and economic growth. Think Singapore, San Francisco, London. The shared strengths and opportunities in Seattle and Vancouver offer a unique opportunity to collaborate and raise the region’s profile as an innovation hub.

Governor Jay Inslee and then-B.C. Premier Christy Clark energized the Cascadia Innovation Corridor partnership with a formal memorandum of understanding to enhance collaboration in research, trade, transportation and education. The momentum builds this fall as Inslee and other key players from government, academia and business – including Microsoft, Hootsuite, the University of Washington and the University of British Columbia – meet in a second annual conference.

In only a year, the Cascadia Innovation Corridor already has begun fueling new cross-border collaborations in a number of areas.

Collaborations having an impact now

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With the 2017 launch of the Cascadia Urban Analytics Cooperative (CUAC), the University of Washington and the University of British Columbia have joined forces to dig into the data and create solutions for urban challenges ranging from traffic congestion to affordable housing.

Fast, frequent and convenient transportation between Seattle and Vancouver will be vital to enhanced economic integration. Today, an intra-city trip typically requires at least a three-hour car ride (and potentially cumbersome border crossing) or a four-hour train journey on rails dominated by freight lines.

High-speed train service could slash the travel time between Seattle and Vancouver to less than an hour. In Washington, legislators have included $300,000 in the 2017 transportation budget to study the potential for high-speed rail linking the two cities. Efforts also are underway to establish fast and convenient seaplane service between Lake Washington and Coal Harbour in Vancouver.

Access to venture capital continues to be a challenge for both cities, which lag behind tech hubs such as Silicon Valley in terms of total venture funding availability. Joining efforts increases the pool of local investors, and raises the profile of the Cascadia Innovation Corridor to potential investors in other regions.

The life sciences are reaping the benefits of computing power and big data, two globally recognized strengths of the Cascadia region. Increased collaboration between research and academic institutions in Seattle and Vancouver opens the door to discoveries that could improve quality of life, and even save lives. Innovation improves the tools the life sciences sector can use, including big data, 3-D imaging and artificial intelligence. Having access to those tools draws top health care talent to the region, improving the quality of life for all.

The future of Cascadia Innovation Corridor

The Peace Arch, dedicated in September of 1921, sits on the border between Blaine, Washington, and Surrey, British Columbia. The inscription on the U.S. side reads “Children of a common mother,” and on the Canadian side, “Brethren dwelling together in unity.”

The Cascadia Innovation Corridor is an example of these quotes in action. Its goal is to bring business, government and academic leaders together to identify and pursue initiatives that will drive regional growth and foster international collaboration, in the spirit of unity that the Peace Arch symbolizes – with demonstrable progress made by the centennial of the arch in 2021.

The foundations of B.C.’s core technology platforms, such as data connectivity, data analytics and data visualization, will accelerate the digital economy and propel exponential growth. For example, the landscape of augmented reality/virtual reality, an area in which B.C. is a global leader, is expected to grow globally from less than $5 billion in 2016 to $150 billion by 2020. Combining that growth with Seattle’s strengths in big data and computing power could put the Cascadia region at the forefront of the industry worldwide.

This vision extends beyond the tech world. Life sciences, mining, telecom, aerospace and other industries are using technologies now that fundamentally transform their operations and that will position them for the next 10-15 years.

The Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference brings together business, academic, and government leaders from both sides of the border to explore new strategies for the region to come together, maximize our shared competitive advantages, and elevate our global economic position.