A new graduate institute in Bellevue, run by the University of Washington and Tsinghua University in China, is designed to educate the next generation of entrepreneurs.
A grand experiment in educating entrepreneurs, to be run by two universities on opposite sides of the Pacific, launched Thursday when the University of Washington and China’s Tsinghua University opened the doors to a graduate institute in Bellevue.
The Global Innovation Exchange, or GIX, marks the first time a Chinese research university has established a physical presence in the United States.
The building, in the nascent Spring District of Bellevue, was funded through a $40 million donation from Microsoft, and it features one of the largest and most advanced “maker spaces” in the region for prototyping new technologies. Its founders expect the new students to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems in areas like health and climate change.
The building’s opening was celebrated by a who’s-who list of executives from Microsoft, along with Gov. Jay Inslee and former governors Chris Gregoire and Gary Locke, and dozens of education officials from China.
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And they marveled at how quickly the institute came into being. It is opening a little more than two years after it was announced in June 2015 — a reflection of how fast change is happening both in industry and in higher education, UW President Ana Mari Cauce said.
Cauce acknowledged that universities often work at a glacial pace, but in the future, “our institutions have to be more nimble and more agile, and so do our students, and that is exactly what we’re going to be preparing them for.”
The building was designed around the curriculum, said Shwetak Patel, the chief technology officer of GIX. Its “maker space” is a cavernous room filled with industry-caliber laser cutters, 3-D printers and machines that can rapidly create printed circuit boards.
It’s a space that’s designed to allow students to quickly spin out prototypes of new devices, and “make those things no one’s thought of yet,” said Nicholas Ames, who will direct the space.
“This is going to be a big, big deal,” Cauce said.
In about two weeks, 43 students will start taking classes in the master’s program, classes that are hands-on and project-based. Many of the students are from China; about a dozen are from the United States. The…