Washington Innovation Summit in Tacoma Reveals State's Strengths, Weaknesses

 
 

The annual innovation summit organized by the Washington Technology Center was recently held in Tacoma. It covered a range of industries from aerospace and materials to renewable energy and education.

If you missed this great meeting, you can still catch up by watching videos and presentations here: 

http://www.watechcenter.org/index.php?p=Program&s=1687

One of the key areas of focus was energy: Several speakers discussed the importance of improving the quality of our electric grid to make it less vulnerable to attack and also enable utilties to manage the load on the system.

"If we ever get into a conflict with China, they will bring down our power grid," said Scott Hamilton,  a consultant with Leeham Company, underscoring the importance of smart grid work being done at PNNL and elsewhere in the state.There is a growing cluster of research efforts in Washington State around this technology, including work on a self-aware electronic grid that uses a sophisticated sensor network to make the grid "self-healing."  Already being tested are systems that  allow utilities to charge consumers based on the load on the power grid. Consumers would be encouraged to run their dishwashers, for example, late at night when demand for electricity is low. Also in the works,

Several speakers noted that while low energy prices make it difficult to sell energy savings technology in this state, Washington can still be a testbed for energy-saving technology.

·         There was some concern about whether our region could remain a leader in innovation. While we lead the world in developing technology, too often the technology is deployed somewhere else in the world. That makes it difficult for us to stay in the lead. We need to encourage companies to develop and manufacture products locally. We also need to accelerate the rate of innovation. One way would be to strengthen the innovation ecosystem. A weak link in that ecosystem is the small size of the UW department of engineering, which compares unfavorably with departments at similarly sized universities in the rest of the country.

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