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A rendering of the planned “Cambia Grove” health care innovation center planned for downtown Seattle.

Cambia Health Solutions, the parent company of Regence and other health-care companies, plans to open a new 9,000-square-foot health care innovation center in downtown Seattle, dubbed The Cambia Grove, that will connect startups and entrepreneurs with leaders in health care, business and government — aiming to find new approaches to some of the biggest challenges in the industry.

Cambia Grove executive director Nicole Bell.
Cambia Grove executive director Nicole Bell

The center is slated to open in the first quarter of 2015 at 9th and Olive in Seattle. The company, based on Portland, is announcing the plan today at the 25th Annual Governor’s Life Sciences Summit, hosted by the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association and Gov. Jay Inslee.

The first “anchor partners” to be announced today are UW Medicine, Regence BlueShield and Qliance.

The overarching goal: to make Seattle and the Pacific Northwest a world-class hub of health care innovation, by breaking down the silos between startups coming into health care for the first time and established players in the market.

“Why couldn’t we be for health care what we are for coffee, for aerospace, for online retail and for independent rock-and-roll?” said Nicole Bell, executive director of the Cambia Grove, in an interview this week. “We can do it — the raw ingredients are here.”

Here’s a video from Cambia about the new facility.

Cambia Health Solutions separately makes its own investments in startups, but the facility won’t be an incubator or accelerator, said Rob Coppedge, senior vice president with the company.

Rob Coppedge, Cambia SVP
Rob Coppedge, Cambia SVP

Instead, the space will be “equally accessible and open,” with room for some startup companies to be based in the facility, but serving more as a “third place” — a collaborative workspace and venue for regular meetings and events.

“This is a different way to approach this challenge, and we’re excited to have the flexibility to try something different,” Coppedge said. “I think there’s a huge opportunity in this market and this region.”

As an example, as one of the anchor partners, UW Medicine will meet with entrepreneurs and startups in the space to talk about the problems it faces. Those entrepreneurs will then explore ways to solve those problems, and if there’s a match, UW Medicine would agree to serve as a pilot facility for the solutions the startups create.

“The vision that we have for what The Cambia Grove can do, and what the community can make happen here, is audacious,” Coppedge said, predicting that Seattle can be to the new health care economy what other major cities have been to the old, “if we get our act together.”

“The resident talent and infrastructure could make that possible,” he said. “The challenges we have are how we work together, and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish here.”

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