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Microsoft backs China-USA IoT course with $40m funding

Steve Rogerson
June 26, 2015
Two of the world’s leading research universities, the University of Washington and Tsinghua University, are partnering to create the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX), an institute dedicated to educating the next generation of innovators.
With $40m in foundational support from Microsoft, GIX aims to bring together students, faculty, professionals and entrepreneurs from around the world to collaborate on real-world technology and design projects. Based in a new facility in the Seattle area, this is the first time a Chinese research university has established a physical presence in the USA. GIX will open its doors in the autumn of 2016 with an inaugural master’s degree in technology innovation, and will grow with additional degree and certificate programmes and fields of study over the next decade.
GIX will pioneer new models of global teaching and learning by directly connecting students and faculty through equal collaborations with research-led companies and non-profits in a holistic, project-based environment that will prepare students to help solve a range of global problems in the IoT age, from the drive for sustainable development to the need for mobile health.
In addition to the University of Washington and Tsinghua University, GIX is being founded under a governance structure that will enable additional research universities to join as equal partners in the future. Additionally, it will contribute to the broader innovation ecosystem through partnerships with a select number of research and development organisations – both companies and non-profit research institutions – with Microsoft being the first of several to support the institute in this capacity.
“GIX will present students with opportunities like no other available at any university in the world today,” said UW interim president Ana Mari Cauce. “Uniting students with faculty, professionals, industry leaders and entrepreneurs from a variety of disciplines will foster expansive thinking and better prepare a generation of leaders with a passion for discovery and the ability to be nimble.”
GIX builds upon the UW’s contributions to innovation in the Puget Sound, particularly in computer science, engineering and electrical engineering, and the life sciences, and more recently defined through a set of initiatives known as the Innovation Imperative. And the institute uses Tsinghua’s strengths as the pace setter for innovation in China and its role as a base for China’s scientific and technological advances.
“In the face of global challenges related to the environment, resources and health, we need to cooperate across national boundaries to find solutions,” said Tsinghua University president Qiu Yong. “GIX creates an innovative education model that will facilitate international and interdisciplinary integration for technological innovations. It will be a multilateral open platform to cultivate young global leaders with technical talent, an entrepreneurial spirit and social responsibility.”
To reflect its commitment to computer science education around the world and to the growth and prosperity of the Puget Sound region, Microsoft has committed funding for GIX. The partnership will continue to add partners, including universities, companies and non-profits, providing more opportunities for collaboration.
“Great universities have a lasting impact on the world around them and GIX is a big bet on the future,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “Our commitment to GIX is grounded in our belief that technology can empower people to achieve more and help solve the world’s biggest challenges.”
GIX’s initial degree offering will be a 15-month master of science in technology innovation (pending approval), with an initial cohort of 30 to 35 students starting in autumn 2016. New degree and certificate programmes will be added over time in response to problems and opportunities yet to be imagined. Private sector companies and non-profits will actively participate, helping identify critical needs and providing mentors. By 2025, it is estimated that more than 3000 learners will be part of GIX.
“This is outstanding news for Washington and a result of our ongoing efforts to strengthen our unique and cutting-edge education and business relationships with China,” said Washington state governor Jay Inslee. "Given our state’s close economic ties to China and our history of fostering innovative, forward-looking industries, the Puget Sound region is the perfect place for leading minds from around the world to collaborate on scientific and technical solutions to global challenges. GIX is a ground-breaking and unprecedented idea that will create new opportunities for the people of Washington, China and beyond.”
GIX will be located on Seattle’s eastside in Bellevue’s Spring district, a new urban development built around the planned light rail. The location will offer proximity to multiple technology corridors in the greater Seattle area, and is 16km from the UW campus. GIX will be housed in a facility with computing and design labs, a prototyping area, and collaboration and presentation spaces.