Seattle has been a place of historic firsts when it comes to collaboration with China.
Now, the city will also be the first to create an overseas educational and research platform with China, otherwise known as the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX).
UW Interim President Ana Mari Cauce made the official announcement June 18, describing the UW’s collaboration with Tsinghua University and Microsoft to create GIX. The program will start in the fall of 2016, with 30-35 students in a 15-month Master of Science in Technology Innovation program.
“This is just the beginning,” Cauce said. “In a decade, more than 3,000 learners will be at GIX.”
GIX is a new academic institute with a global innovative focus, linking research-led universities and companies with nonprofits. It will be located in the Spring District of Bellevue, where several development firms will be building an apartment building to house the project.
“It’s a privilege to participate in a discussion for how tech can impact the world for generations to come,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said during the June 18 announcement. “I believe technology has the potential to solve the world’s most pressing challenges and move societies forward.”
GIX is a part of the UW’s Innovation Imperative, a three-step plan to connect with the “innovation ecosystem.” This includes growing resources to scale the UW’s programs, building new education models to better connect the UW to the world, and developing stronger links to a larger community, partly through faculty research innovation.
Microsoft is providing $40 million in foundational funding to GIX. This is in addition to the $10 million Microsoft is giving to the UW’s computer science and engineering department.
“Bringing together a leading university in China with a leading university in the United States is an ambitious project with incredible promise,” Nadella said. “It’s exactly the kind of initiative that Microsoft wants to be in the center of, and invested in.”
President Qiu Yong said Tsinghua students know Seattle primarily because of the movie “Sleepless in Seattle” and the TV drama “Grey’s Anatomy.”
“From this day onward, students from Tsinghua will learn more about Seattle because of this GIX,” Yong said through an interpreter.
Yong said mankind faces a series of global issues like natural disasters, climate change, depletion of natural resources, and environmental protection.
“For the future, we will have to work in cooperation,” he said. “GIX will serve as a great example to make contributions for the world civilization process. [It] is a very wonderful beginning for both parties.”
Gov. Jay Inslee supported the project, saying it’s a way to understand how Washington can better grow its economy by looking for further collaboration with China.
“This trade of intellectual talent goes both ways and creates jobs in both communities, and we [have] got to celebrate it,” Inslee said. “We [have] got to understand how large this opportunity is for the state of Washington.”
Wright Runstad & Co., Security Properties, and Shorenstein Properties are doing the developments for GIX, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal. Security Properties is currently raising a 309-unit apartment building along with more than 275 units next summer for the second phase of development.
Wright Runstad President Greg Johnson said the first building will be done within 18-24 months, allowing GIX to open in the Spring District in 2017.
Although these developments might affect people in the immediate area, Yong, Cauce, and Nadella agreed the collaboration will also affect people around the world.
Cauce said when a group of undaunted learners and teachers are put together, it will lead to a world of good.
“Come back in 10 years, and you’ll see what we have done,” she said.