The creation of a new global hub for innovation and economic development was the focus of a conference held this week in Vancouver.
The Emerging Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference brought together business and government leaders to explore the potential for joint partnerships in education, transportation, university research, human capital and other areas. The conference was jointly hosted by the Business Council of British Columbia, the Washington Roundtable and Microsoft.
Leaders on both sides of the border acknowledged the opportunity to create a single interconnected region that could be more competitive in today’s global economy—and took action to deepen relationships and strengthen partnerships. At the conference, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark signed a formal agreement that committed the two governments to work closely together to “enhance meaningful and results-driven innovation and collaboration.”
Seattle and Vancouver, the two cities at the heart of the new initiative, share a number of complementary strengths. And yet, according to a new Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study released at the conference, the level of connectedness between the two cities remains remarkably low for two cities so close together. While only 120 miles or 190 kilometers apart they behave more like cities that are thousands of miles apart.
“In an increasingly competitive global market for talent and capital, harnessing our collective strengths and the power of innovation will drive greater productivity and business growth across the region,” said Greg D’Avignon, Business Council of British Columbia President and CEO. “We welcome leading thinkers from both sides of the border to British Columbia to discuss how improved collaboration will create greater prosperity for the benefit of all residents in B.C. and Washington State.”
The region has the “potential to become an important innovation corridor,” but doing so will require regional leaders work together, the study said. This could be possible through sustained collaboration aided by an educated and skilled workforce, a vibrant network of research universities and a dynamic policy environment.
“Our cities share many common attributes,” said Washington Roundtable President Steve Mullin. “Throughout history, Cascadia has been a region on the forefront of economic growth, whether trade, energy, aviation or technology. To stay competitive in a global economy, we need to think regionally about where we can align resources to make a greater impact on our society and economy.”
Microsoft recently invested $90 million to open the Microsoft Canada Excellence Centre, a state-of-the-art development facility that will create products for the global market and develop technology talent in British Columbia. The center will grow to more than 750 positions and have an estimated economic impact across B.C. of $180 million each year. In addition, Boeing also recently opened a laboratory in Vancouver to focus on data analytics, software development and professional consulting work.
“Working together, we can build a globally competitive 21st century innovation corridor that connects and enhances both regions. This is a unique opportunity that can create benefits for people throughout the region for generations to come,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith.