Bothell earns $500,000 grant to help bio-tech companies

According to Bothell Assistant City Manager Terrie Battuello, the city began to take steps recently to exploit a $500,000 state economic grant won by the city late last year.

Battuello said the first move is to set up a nonprofit organization to oversee creation of the planned MedTech Discovery Center in Bothell, a center meant to promote the city’s already sizable medical device industry.

To be temporarily located at the University of Washington, the center ultimately will be a public facility for the incubation of new companies, as well as networking and meeting space for industry professionals.

Battuello added one specific goal of the center is already decided: to create five new companies annually.

“I’m kind of proud of the fact we got the money,” Battuello said, noting the city was in stiff, direct competition with business hubs from around the state.

In all, there were 12 areas in the running for what turned out to be four grants worth a total of $1.5 million.

Eventually, Battuello and other city officials would like to see the new center moved to its own facility in Canyon Park, though according to city documents, UW-Bothell will maintain a presence at the center. That presence will allow new and established firms better access to the school’s extensive research base, as well as its various business support programs, presumably including help in the area of technology transfer, or the commercialization of scientific discoveries.

Battuello wasn’t sure whether the new nonprofit center board will decide to construct new space for the center or lease existing space. She did say leased space obviously would be cheaper in the short term.

Bio-tech incubators can run the spectrum from administrative centers that help with obtaining grants and other funding, for example, to full-fledged labs used by start-up technology companies that simply don’t have the capital for expensive scientific equipment themselves.

In this instance, according to Battuello, the grant money in hand so far clearly is not enough to fund a full-stocked lab, though she didn’t rule out such a facility ultimately appearing. Even a less ambitious center probably will carry a bigger than $500,000 price tag. Battuello said the city had to match $140,000 of the grant right off the bat, but officials also are looking to raise further dollars.

So far, Battuello added the city has identified 10 sources of potential revenues and come up with three possible funding strategies. But because no specific strategy has been identified, Battuello said no one yet knows what any fund-raising goal might be.

As for finding a spot for the center, Battuello and business leaders are meeting with UW-Bothell officials to identify a temporary headquarters for the new center. She added there is no agreement in place as of yet.

According to information supplied by the city, bio medical devices are a roughly $2.5 billion business statewide.

Of the top 10 Washington companies, ranked by number of employees, five are in Bothell and two more sit adjacent to the city.

As many know, because of the strength of the industry here, the Bothell Technology Corridor was designated an Innovation Partnership Zone by the governor’s office in 2007. Unfortunately, according to Battuello, the zone designation came with no real funding.

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