Washington reels in federal grant to advance innovation, entrepreneurship, investment in sustainable maritime economy

Washington Maritime Blue receives $600K Industry Challenge Grant from U.S. Economic Development Administration; state partners will match to create $1.2 million investment in state’s blue economy

SEATTLE, WAWashington Maritime Blue, a non-profit, strategic alliance formed to accelerate innovation and sustainability in the maritime and ocean industries, has been awarded a $600,000 “Build to Scale” Industry Challenge grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy. The organization today also announced matching investments of $600,000 from the Washington State Department of Commerce, Port of Seattle, City of Tacoma Office of Community and Economic Development and Tacoma Power, bringing total new investment in Washington’s blue economy to $1.2 million over the next three years.

Maritime Blue is a partnership of industry, public sector, research and training institutions and community organizations.

“This grant, along with the commitment of our Maritime Blue partners, advances Washington’s strategy for a blue economy – the first of its kind in the nation – and our goals to continue to be a global leader in maritime technology innovation and best practices,” said Gov. Jay Inslee.

“Maritime Blue was developed through Commerce’s industry sector program to help accelerate innovation and strengthen the future of our state’s diverse maritime industry,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. “A strong ‘blue economy’ means not only sustainable use of ocean resources, but also strengthens communities through new economic growth, good jobs and a healthy environment.”

In 2018, Inslee appointed a diverse set of stakeholders to the Maritime Innovation Advisory Council, who then worked with Commerce staff to develop the Washington State’s Strategy for the Blue Economy . An EDA i6 Challenge Grant helped fund that work. Since that time, Maritime Blue created the Maritime Blue Innovation Accelerator, which helped launch 11 startups and develop several Joint Innovation Projects, including the Zero Emission Foil Fast Ferry, which recently received funding from the Federal Transit Administration.

This award will help build operational capacity of the cluster organization to expand technical support and project management of joint innovation projects, scale up the Maritime Blue Accelerator in Seattle, build a Tacoma-specific incubator program, and provide further support for entrepreneurs in other key maritime communities like Everett, Anacortes, Bellingham and Bremerton.

“This grant will enable Maritime Blue’s vision to set sail – positioning Washington state as a global leader in maritime innovation and sustainability,” said Commissioner Fred Felleman, Port of Seattle Vice President and Maritime Blue board member.  “We greatly appreciate this federal support and the Port is proud to continue our investment in this effort to advance an inclusive blue economy of the future.”

“We are delighted to partner with Maritime Blue and South Sound entrepreneurs to leverage Tacoma’s marine and maritime assets to drive innovation and enable the creation of living wage jobs,” said Mayor Victoria Woodards. “The Maritime Blue coalition across the Puget Sound region and Washington state, bolstered by this federal grant support, will extend the benefits of maritime innovation to Tacoma in support of our marine ecosystem, environmental health and economy.”

“We are grateful for the federal support of innovation and entrepreneurship here in Tacoma,” said Chris Robinson, superintendent of Tacoma Power. “Partnerships like this can bolster economic development in our region, increase training opportunities for our local workforce, and provide resources for local businesses to develop technologies that move us toward a clean energy future.”

This year’s EDA Industry Challenge Build to Scale awards (formerly known as the Regional Innovation Strategies program) provided a total of $35 million to 52 organizations from 36 states, including nonprofits, institutions of higher education, and entrepreneurship-focused organizations to support entrepreneurship, acceleration of company growth and increased access to risk capital across regional economies. The Industry Challenge is in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, which is providing $2 million, and seeks to support entrepreneurship and accelerate companies growing within the Blue Economy.

“Grantees were selected from a competitive pool of more than 600 applications and represent exemplary innovation and entrepreneurship from rural and urban areas across America,” said Dana Gartzke, performing the delegated duties of the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development.



Joshua Berger, Washington Maritime Blue Board Chair |Governor’s Maritime Sector Lead, joshua.berger@commerce.wa.gov

Penny Thomas, Commerce Communications, (360) 704-9489, penny.thomas@commerce.wa.gov

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