Washington state maritime industry investment study points to tech innovation for growth

Source: Washington Department of Commerce, September 19, 2019

Days after Washington Governor Jay Inslee celebrated the start of work on the state’s first hybrid-electric ferry, a study released by Washington Maritime Blue identified technology solutions for water transportation, shipping, science and other ocean systems, as the highest growth sector in the “Blue Economy” – a term referring to sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved jobs and ocean ecosystem health. Despite the growth opportunity, the study found that few equity investors are currently focused on maritime.

The capital landscape study released today follows up on the January 2019 release of Washington State’s Strategy for the Blue Economy by Gov. Inslee’s Maritime Innovation Advisory Committee. Washington Maritime Blue emerged from this strategy as an independent industry cluster alliance to promote growth in the state’s Blue Economy.

The new study, completed by Next Street and partner firm TILT Investments for the Washington Maritime Blue alliance, researched potential funding structures to provide investment capital to support growth of the maritime sector throughout Washington state. The study includes a regional maritime capital landscape scan to better understand the nature of demand for capital in the maritime sector. It also analyzed whether the supply of capital currently meets these demands, and seeks to understand key gaps in this sector.

The study examined four peer cities – Boston, Oslo, Rotterdam and San Diego. Washington’s powerful technology hub – especially for cloud computing – alongside significant maritime and advanced manufacturing industry clusters in the Puget Sound region, offers a uniquely attractive environment for potential investors.  The state and local partners, including the Port of Seattle, have funded a Maritime Innovation Center and business accelerator to develop startups and small-to-medium-sized maritime technology companies with the goal to facilitate access to capital.

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