KEDA to develop autonomous water vehicle cluster under innovation grant

Award was granted by state’s Department of Commerce

Kitsap Economic Development Alliance (KEDA) has been awarded a two-year, $500,000 grant to launch the Washington Autonomous Vehicle Cluster, or WAV-C.

Under the Washington Department of Commerce’s Innovation Cluster Accelerator, nine innovation clusters are being funded in industries such as advanced computing, renewable energy, and bioscience. KEDA’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Work Group developed the WAV-C proposal in an effort to accelerate the unmanned and autonomous vehicle industry, KEDA said in a news release.

“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 Joe Morrison, KEDA executive director.

“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.”

In the news release, Morrison said innovation cluster accelerator models bring together key players, such as business, entrepreneurs, investors and government, “to solve industry challenges that limit growth and innovation.”

According to the Silverdale-based organization, the WAV-C initiative received letters of support from firms such as 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.

KEDA said that developing and expanding corporate partnerships will be a top priority initially for WAV-C. The organization said it anticipates hiring two full-time staff members to manage the project.

The state’s Department of Commerce is supporting the development and growth of these innovation clusters through seed funding, strategic guidance, leadership development and connections with state and global cluster partners. The program is one portion of work supported by a $15 million CARES Act grant by the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration.

KEDA, which was founded in 1983, focuses on partnering with businesses and government to retain, expand and attract employers to Kitsap County.