CoMotion Labs is a startup’s best friend
written by Sheila G. Miller
Start It Up
CoMotion Labs is part of CoMotion, the University of Washington’s collaborative innovation hub, and is dedicated to the high-tech startup community. Members can be from anywhere in the state. The lab’s mission is to expand the economic, societal impact of the community and help innovators make the biggest impact with their discoveries. There are three CoMotion Labs around the University of Washington campus area. The group also operates a virtual space in Spokane. Each lab has an industry cluster as its focus—one o ers a focus on health care and biotech engineering, others virtual reality and augmented reality, and IT, so ware and artificial intelligence development.
Associate director Elizabeth Scallon runs the labs and also does much of the legwork surrounding partnerships, strategic vision and identifying new startups for CoMotion Labs to work with. Scallon has a graduate degree in global business and previously worked for a small biotech company called VLST that grew from an accelerator and in turn incubated more biotech companies in the area.
The space first opened in 2012. By 2013, twelve startups were being developed through the labs. Today there are about ninety- ve in the program. “We provide space and a learning network and services to help the startup community in that early phase,” Scallon said. “We help them as they go on their journey to scale up.” Two of the more successful startups to come out of CoMotion Labs include Turi, a machine learning company that was acquired by Apple for about $200 million, and Vicis, which has developed technology in athletes’ helmets that can reduce concussions by absorbing the impact. Or take M3 Biotechnology, which has a technology in phase-one clinical trials for the treatment of Alzheimer’s. That technology was developed at Washington State University and the startup was incubated at CoMotion Labs.
More than half the people developing startups through CoMotion Labs are from outside UW. “What I think is great about that is, we have these startups throughout the entire community and they hire UW interns or grads to be part of their startup full time, and then the startup also has opportunities to join in with different professors on campus and to develop capstone projects for which students can apply.”
The group also operates a maker space available to the public, who can borrow a tool or participate in workshops. There are education and training programs free and open to the public, as well as available through live-streaming on YouTube. “It’s great because when you have a mission of economic development you can take a broad view rather than a very singular view,” Scallon said.