Clean Water Innovation Laboratory

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The Capital Budget signed on April 22 by Governor Gregoire during a ceremony at Tacoma Community College provides the University of Washington Tacoma with $2 million for a new "Clean Water Innovation Development and Technology Transfer Laboratory," to be located in remodeled space on campus, along with $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. Technology transfer is a primary focus of the IPZ program, and a priority area for the UW under President Michael Young’s leadership.

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. The Department of Commerce approved an application to establish an Urban Clean Water Technology IPZ in October of 2011. The application was submitted by a coalition that included the City of Tacoma, Port of Tacoma, Economic Development Board of Tacoma-Pierce County, Tacoma Community College, Parametrix and several businesses and non-profits, along with UW Tacoma and WSU Puyallup.

"These labs will build upon considerable local investments in clean water technologies and will reinforce the state's commitment to make Tacoma the regional center of excellence for water sciences and engineering," says UW Tacoma Chancellor Debra Friedman. "This investment enhances our science programs and will foster opportunities for faculty and students to engage with businesses and entrepreneurs in ways that lead to research-based ideas and inventions and their potential commercialization."

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 says. "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," says Baker. "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."