Washington’s Innovation Summit 2010 highlighted efficiency and sustainability

Innovations in efficiency and sustainability topped the cross-cutting themes coming out of Washington’s Innovation Summit 2010, held April 9th, 2010 at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center.

The full-day Summit convened industry, public-sector and research leaders from across the state to address Washington’s competitiveness through the lens of innovation. With case studies and break-out sessions in the areas of aerospace, defense and energy, the Summit provided a forum where participants highlighted innovation success stories, described current challenges, and foreshadowed opportunities to come. View photos and videos.

Congressman Jay Inslee outlined clean energy as the next “moon race” that will inspire rapid innovation. Inslee says Americans need to ask themselves, “Will electric cars be built in China or in the U.S.?” To compete, the U.S. needs to invest in major industrial capacity he said, and added that legislating a cap on carbon emissions would unleash a wave of clean energy investment in the billions of dollars.

Governor Chris Gregoire highlighted efficiency of a different sort – streamlined permitting and regulatory processes – as steps the state government has been taking to spur investment. The Governor noted that a streamlined permitting process and low energy rates attracted BMW and SGL to locate a carbon fiber plant in Moses Lake, Washington, in her words, getting Washington’s “foot in the door” in the auto sector.

Sustaining the U.S. lead in deploying innovation was another theme of the Summit.

Museum of Flight CEO and former astronaut Dr. Bonnie Dunbar stressed the need to cultivate the engineers of tomorrow through greater emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in the U.S. K-12 education system.

Congressman Adam Smith and energy expert Mike Davis of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory said it’s a myth that the U.S. has lost its manufacturing edge. The U.S. still leads in innovation, but in a vastly more competitive world. Aerospace expert Scott Hamilton added that a major problem is the trend of U.S. companies outsourcing their technology deployment.

Federal and private funding for innovative startup companies was a topic that came up repeatedly throughout the Summit.

Congressman Smith noted that the ‘crazy quilt’ of federal innovation incentives needs to be clarified, especially in a future that will be dominated by huge federal deficits.

Gary Gigot of Optimum Energy says that Northwest clean technology startups need to match their enterprises with the relatively low capacity of local venture capitalists, or else go to Silicon Valley for funding.

Retired Marine Corps Lt. General Carol Mutter echoed a comment by Congressman Smith that the U.S. military is the biggest consumer of energy, and she noted that reducing energy consumption by the military is a current trend.

With military budgets developed two years in advance, Mutter urged small companies to seek out both government industry days and opportunities to provide feedback on draft government RFPs to make the Department of Defense aware of new technologies.

Considering where developments might take us over the next 25 years, science fiction author Greg Bear warned us of the limitations of logic-based computers trying to mimic human thought patterns. He suggested that instead we might see development of computers based on biologic processes. While these might give us considerably different computing power, like humans, they might too be more unpredictable in behavior.

Looking toward an energy efficient future, Summit panelists envision a world where sustainability is a business imperative. Every consumer will look at two price tags: the purchase price and the energy consumption cost.

Read press coverage:
Revolutionary Road … WA’s Innovation Summit
Alexandra Steele of eco-maven associates provides a summary of the summit focusing on the luncheon panel.

Is Conventional Wisdom an Oxymoron?
Bart Philips of the Columbia River Economic Development Council challenges those who believe in demise of U.S.

Efficient Energy: Sizing and Seizing Opportunities
Denis DuBois provides this recap of the afternoon energy session he moderated.

Business Resource Directory:
Find company descriptions and contact information for participating speakers, sponsors and exhibitors — cross-referenced by industry sector.

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