On Friday, September 23, civic, corporate and academic leaders gathered in Bellevue’s Spring District to mark the groundbreaking for the facility that will house the Global Innovation Exchange, or GIX. Among them were Washington Governor Jay Inslee, King County Executive Dow Constantine, as well as Ana Mari Cauce and Qiu Yong, the presidents, respectively, of the University of Washington (UW) and Tsinghua University.
As a global partnership between major research universities in collaboration with innovative corporations and NGOs, GIX aims to develop thought leaders in innovation; UW and Tsinghua are the first two academic partners, with early support from Microsoft. GIX pioneers new forms of teaching and learning by connecting world-class learners and faculty with research-led companies and NGOs to collaborate on solutions to global challenges.
The occasion was a chance to celebrate the concrete progress being made on GIX across a number of fronts, according to Vikram Jandhyala, GIX’s co-Executive Director, UW’s Vice President for Innovation Strategy, and Executive Director of CoMotion (UW’s collaborative innovation hub). “GIX provides a unique platform to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges in health, sustainability, and social innovation,” he said.
In addition to this milestone, GIX is also moving forward on other fronts. The program is now accepting applications for the inaugural fall 2017 class with students able to apply for UW’s Master of Science in Technology Innovation (MSTI) degree and the GIX dual masters’ degree. An initial cohort of students began their studies in the dual masters’ degree program in Beijing this fall and will join newly recruited students in Bellevue in fall 2017.
UW and Tsinghua agree this is an opportunity to build a unique platform—one that will ultimately bring talent to the region from all over the world, and help cement Seattle’s status as a global center for innovation.
GIX builds on the strengths of its partners. It is co-directed by leaders from partner institutions, and courses are co-created and taught by experts from academia and industry. The UW is deeply and intrinsically connected to the Seattle region’s innovation ecosystem and enjoys a tradition of global engagement. Tsinghua, one of China’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning, is an innovation pacesetter, and a base for scientific and technological advances in China. GIX makes Tsinghua the first Chinese university with a physical presence on U.S. soil.
Microsoft, the first lead industry partner, provided $40 million in early funding and is committed to GIX’s long-term growth and success. This reflects Microsoft’s broader commitment to STEM education around the world and to the growth and success of the greater Seattle region.
A select number of world-class university, corporate and NGO partners are expected to join in the near future, allowing GIX to further embody the global nature of education and innovation today.
GIX develops leaders, stimulates innovation in the workforce, and helps solve technological and design challenges. Graduates will have the technical and design thinking skills and business confidence to launch their own startup, join a new venture team at a leading company or non-profit, or advance their academic pursuits. Industry and NGO partners help identify global challenges and provide ongoing mentorship and support to a global student cohort.
GIX’s interdisciplinary curriculum and project-based coursework train students to take an innovation from concept to development and on to launch. Emphasis on the interplay between design thinking, technology development, and entrepreneurship prepares students to contribute solutions to a range of global challenges and business needs.
Ultimately, its impact will reach far beyond the walls of its Seattle-area facilities, attracting participants and encouraging collaboration unlimited by geography or discipline. New degree options, certificate programs, and fields of study will be added.
GIX is located in Bellevue’s Spring District, a new urban development east of Seattle built around planned light rail. Just 10 miles from the UW campus, the location offers proximity to multiple technology corridors. The nearly 100,000-square foot, state-of-the-art facility will feature design studios, a large makerspace, electronics prototyping labs, and spaces for collaboration and presentations. It is scheduled to open in time for the 2017-2018 school year.
“The problems we are trying to solve are global problems,” Jandhyala says, “and GIX will help bring us together to meet that goal.”