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WA Legislature Dismantles Longstanding TBED Initiative, Reduces Funds for Research

March 20, 2014

Just three years ago, lawmakers in Washington put into place a research and commercialization initiative designed as a public-private model to build on the work of two longstanding agencies and better serve the state’s innovation community. The program, Innovate Washington, was eliminated in the legislature during the 2014 session with the passage of HB 2029 and its responsibilities transferred to the state’s Department of Commerce. Funding to support research grants under the Life Sciences Discovery Fund is reduced in the supplemental budget agreement passed by lawmakers.

Under HB 2029, the Innovate Washington Agency responsibilities are transferred to the Department of Commerce no later than June 30. While no new funding was appropriated to the agency last year, Innovate Washington had $2.6 million left in reserves. With enactment of the bill, any remaining balance is transferred to Commerce. The bill also stipulates that the agency’s two facilities be transferred to Washington State University.

As reported in a previous Digest issue, Innovate Washington was created in 2011 as the successor of two longstanding and accomplished TBED organizations – the Washington Technology Center (WTC) and the Spokane Intercollegiate Research and Technology Institute (SIRTI). The goal of the merger was to expand services to include entrepreneurial support, access to capital, and support for sector/cluster initiatives.

The supplemental operating budget passed by lawmakers reduces funds for the Life Sciences Discovery Fund, established by lawmakers in 2005 to invest in cutting-edge research using state tobacco settlement funds. The budget language allows for the transfer of $9.6 million in FY15 from the Life Sciences Discovery Fund to the Education Legacy Trust account. Life sciences leaders have rallied to save the fund, pointing to its success in helping launch startup companies and the additional funding the state receives from follow-on grants, matching funds and private investment.

The budget also includes an additional $1 million each to expand enrollment in engineering programs at Eastern Washington University and Central Washington University. Gov. Jay Inslee has until April 5 to act on the legislation.

Washingtonbio, higher ed, state budget, state tbed