Washington Autonomous Vehicle Cluster (WAV-C)

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Kitsap Economic Development Alliance to develop Autonomous Water Vehicle Cluster under 2-year innovation grant


SILVERDALE, WA - Washington Department of Commerce announced today the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance (KEDA) was awarded a two-year $500,000 grant to launch the Washington Autonomous Vehicle Cluster, or WAV-C.

Innovation cluster accelerator models bring key players together – business, entrepreneurs, academia, investors and government – to solve industry challenges that limit growth and innovation. Washington State piloted this approach in 2017 with its Maritime Blue initiative. Under the Washington Department of Commerce’s Innovation Cluster Accelerator, nine innovation clusters are being funded in diverse industries, including advanced computing, 5G, renewable energy, bioscience and others. KEDA’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Work Group developed the WAV-C proposal with a focus on accelerating the industry of unmanned and autonomous vehicles, forecast as a $2 trillion global market by 2030. 

“KEDA’s proposed launch concept for WAV-C is to initially focus on the water segment of these vehicles, given the strong maritime and defense industry presence in our community” said KEDA Executive Director Joe Morrison. “We’ll use our infrastructure, connectivity, and experience in entrepreneurship and innovation to create a broad, diverse, and industry-led cluster effort that will generate value for companies in Washington and beyond.” The underwater segment of unmanned vehicles alone has a projected size of $9.5 billion by 2028.

The WAV-C initiative received 23 letters of support, including from firms like defense giant Raytheon, Bremerton-based international builder SAFE Boats International, and Port Orchard small business Greysam Industrial, which specializes in providing underwater autonomous vehicles to clients. Developing and expanding corporate partnerships will be a top priority for WAV-C initially. KEDA anticipates hiring two full-time staff to manage the project. 

The Washington Department of Commerce is supporting the development and growth of these clusters through seed funding, strategic guidance, leadership development, connections with state and global cluster leaders and partners, and international marketing support. The program is one portion of work supported by a $15 million CARES Act investment by the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA).

“Strategic investment to support innovation in key legacy and nascent industries is a pillar of our economic development strategy to strengthen Washington communities for the future,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. “We see in these public-private partnerships the potential to launch new clusters with dramatic impact on lives, jobs and business opportunities.”