Innovate Washington loses state funding

Formerly known as SIRTI, the state funded economic development agency whose mission changed every few years – Innovate Washington loses state funding – – July 11, 2013.

Bet if the heated pedestrian/bike bridge was built, those often empty SIRTI buildings would have been teeming with industry!



And it probably should be shut down.

SIRTI and its successor, Innovate Washington, did not deliver close to the hype of their own PR. SIRTI started out as the Joint Center for Higher Education, then became SIRTI with a constantly evolving mission, and then became Innovate Washington.

Its predecessor, SIRTI, was misorganized for its task (see “Recommendations 2: Part 4 – Plans – Let’s Aim High“). Under former leader Patrick Tam, a decade ago, SIRTI, a Washington State funded agency, wanted to  do economic development in North Idaho. SIRTI claimed it was going to put “this region on the technology map, the same as Austin, Texas, or Silicon Valley”. (How did that turn out? A major failure.)

Read about the history of SIRTI (aka Innovate Washington) and you’ll discover an organization whose mission changed frequently. Starting out as the “Spokane Intercollegiate Research and Technology Institute” (hence “SIRTI”), it was to provide a place for teaching computer science and to train a high tech work force. It opened computer labs shared between colleges.

Then SIRTI was to become an agent of technology transfer, converting academic research into commercial products. But without graduate programs in engineering and tech, this could never happen. Then it became a “technology incubator”, and then an economic development agency, and finally Innovate Washington, tasked with implementing goals that aligned with the State’s top-down, centrally planned future for “innovation”. SIRTI was also supposed to be a local people networking group, “substituting for the ‘dense networks’ that exist in innovation ecosystems”.

In the end, Innovate Washington was unable to show that it had created any meaningful jobs in the prior two years and the state pulled the plug. The organization will continue to operate from their reserves while seeking private grants.

If there had a U-District heated pedestrian/bike bridge, JCHE/SIRTI/Innovate Washington likely would have produced a multi hundred billion $ science and technology economy in Spokane. Of course!


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