For 20 years, the Technology Alliance has worked to ensure that Washington state fosters and supports a healthy, innovation-driven economy. We are a voice for companies, non-profits, service providers, and individuals from innovation-driven sectors who view technology as a fundamental good that can benefit all. Our members share a commitment to the issues that are foundational to this belief: a strong K-12 and higher education system and healthy, diverse talent pipeline; an entrepreneurial climate with enough capital and connections to support budding innovators; capacity in our research institutions and companies that allows for great ideas to incubate and be known; and a recognition of the public impact and social good that all of this advancement is causing for the citizens and communities across our state.
The Tech Alliance advances these core issues through research, events, programs, and targeted communications. We daylight current and emerging issues across the tech sector and connect leaders from business, research, education, and elected office to the data, stories and experts in the most relevant issue areas.
In 2015-16, the Technology Alliance welcomed a new CEO, Carol Rava, and stayed focused on two core competencies: daylighting current and emerging issues across the tech sector, and connecting leaders from business, research, education, and elected office to the data, stories and experts in these issue areas. Our programming furthered conversations about the role of computer science in K-12 education, Washington’s renewable energy sector, the next big growth area for the region (virtual and augmented reality), and the history and future of innovation here. Through our events alone, we reached more than 1,600 key business, education, and civic leaders; and across all of our programming we made sure that our board members and sponsors were visible and acknowledged for their commitment to strengthening our innovation-driven economy. Below are highlights from 2015-16.
The Science & Technology Discovery Series continued to be a platform for us to highlight the importance of maintaining a robust research industry for a healthy, innovation-driven economy. We had nine exceptional speakers introduce their emerging research to more than 600 key business and civic leaders. Steve Davis informed us about PATH’s exemplary work to ensure that global health innovations are developed, deployed, and scaled in a way that is relevant and sustainable; and Dr. Semih Tareen explained how Juno Therapeutics is engineering immunity against cancer by using viruses and viral elements to design and reprogram immune systems that destroy tumors in patients.
In the fall, we hosted another successful Technology Institute, our biennial retreat that brings together state and federal policy makers with our state’s technology leaders to explore policy issues affecting our innovation-driven sectors. We had over 80 in attendance, and packed a lot of important content into our 2.5-day program. Interesting ideas emerged around both education and clean energy technologies, and we look forward to continuing to further them.
In January, we hosted leading innovators, investors, and entrepreneurs in a deep-dive day on virtual and augmented reality. The region's key players in this space came together to present a comprehensive look at the field by identifying opportunities, showcasing their products, and presenting a glimpse of the future. The event highlighted VR’s potential to be both high impact and high growth, as well as its ability to significantly enrich the economy of Washington state and improve our competitive advantage globally.
Our 19th annual fundraiser, the State of Technology Luncheon, attracted our largest audience yet. More than 1,000 leaders from business, research, education and government gathered to hear from Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella. This year’s event looked both at the history of our state as an innovator generator (the infographic that we produced for the event is available online here) and forward, towards a future seeded by the next generation of pioneers. Satya’s keynote was inspiring and reinforced our belief that an innovation-driven economy provides both opportunity and impact, and requires continued investments in R&D and education systems.
The 2016 Youth Apps Challenge culminated with an awards ceremony hosted by UW Computer Science & Engineering. Through a combination of teacher training and a contest, the challenge directly exposes hundreds of students to basic programming and problem solving skills. Engaging more young people in STEM is critical to our state’s future, and Youth Apps is among the key efforts working directly with students and schools. This year, more than 50 teams of students (each with a faculty sponsor) submitted apps to the challenge. We had teams addressing everything from teen ride-sharing to homeless issues to marine biology identification. Teams came from Spokane, the Yakima Valley, Vancouver, and the Puget Sound. Almost 50% of the students in the final competition were girls, and almost half of those were minorities. Youth Apps has made a difference in the STEM space.