The state will fund science labs designed to drive economic development in the South Sound by supporting the new Urban Clean Water Innovation Partnership Zone.

The capital budget, signed yesterday by Gov. Chris Gregoire, provides the University of Washington Tacoma with $2 million for a new “Clean Water Innovation Development and Technology Transfer Laboratory,” which will be located in remodeled space on campus. It also includes $800,000 for specialized lab equipment to support commercial development of clean water technologies at the Center for Urban Waters.

In addition, the Washington State University Puyallup Research and Extension Center, which partners with UW Tacoma on the IPZ and other applied science initiatives, receives $800,000 to modify its Salmon Toxicology Lab into a multi-use Aquatic Toxicology Lab.

Both the UW and WSU projects expand labs in ways that allow private-sector scientists and engineers to collaborate with university researchers and government experts on research and development projects, thereby increasing the likelihood that new knowledge and inventions will make their way into new products and services.

The result of this process, known as technology transfer, builds companies and creates jobs, according to economic development leaders.

The labs are part of a $13.5 million package the legislature funded through the Department of Commerce to provide innovation partnership zones with enhanced facilities and infrastructure.

Bruce Kendall, president of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County, says building a clean water technology cluster has been a major priority.
“We only established the IPZ in October and already we have $3.6 million in funds flowing in to boost our efforts to establish the South Sound as a world leader in this sector,” he said. “This industry cluster will be good for the economy and even better for the environment.”

Joel Baker, UW Tacoma professor and science director for the Center for Urban Waters, will be using the labs in his work along with other UW Tacoma faculty and students. 

“The South Sound is building an impressive array of science labs to support high-level environmental research,” he said. “The new labs will be particularly useful because they will allow engineers and scientists from the private sector to work side by side with university faculty, which brings new ideas and energy into our collaborations. This investment comes at a critical time, enabling UWT to grow our current strengths in environmental science while building innovative programs in environmental engineering.”