UC Berkeley receives $20 million for design innovation center

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Andrew Kuo/Senior Staff

The UC Berkeley College of Engineering announced on Thursday a $20 million gift from the Paul and Stacy Jacobs Foundation to launch a new institute that will focus on incorporating design into engineering education.

Former president Bill Clinton helped announce the launch of the design innovation institute at the annual Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in Chicago. Paul Jacobs, a UC Berkeley alumnus and the CEO of Qualcomm Inc., and his wife, Stacy Jacobs, were both present at the event. The design innovation institute aims to integrate design into the engineering curriculum and provide students with studios and workshops to work on design and fabrication.

Fiona Doyle, executive associate dean of the College of Engineering, was among those who expressed their thoughts on the initiative.

“This puts Berkeley in a position to lead the national effort on widening the educational pipeline to provide more grads who will have careers in innovation,” Doyle said. “This obviously is going to have huge benefits for the national competitiveness as well as the general quality of life.”

Clinton chose to showcase the new institute at his Global Initiative meeting, which convenes leaders in the business, foundation, NGO and government sectors to generate solutions for economic recovery and job creation. The event was webcast in Berkeley at a viewing party at the Hearst Memorial Mining Building on campus, where College of Engineering faculty and staff members and a recent graduate spoke.

“This new initiative is something that is very timely and is going to provide a lot more space and resources to enable us to educate and motivate our students to become world-class engineering leaders,” said professor Tsu-Jae King Liu, associate chair of the electrical engineering and computer sciences department.

According to Karen Rhodes, executive director of marketing and communications at the College of Engineering, the initiative is still in the planning stages, although a faculty task force has already been established.

Rhodes estimates that there will be pilot programs in the upcoming school year but that the initiative will not be formalized until the 2015-16 school year.

“It’s really about motivation, because to get the students involved in creating an even larger innovation economy, they need to get the satisfaction early in their educational career,” Jacobs said. “(Students) can know how to build real products that can help real people improve their lives, and that’s what we’re most excited about.”