Office of the President

January 26, 2015

Disruptive innovation at the UW

Michael K. Young

Entrepreneurial thinking is central to the University of Washington in the most profound and powerful way imaginable. It is also reflective of our state. I see a UW where all students have access to the basic skills and resources for taking a creative solution and pursuing its delivery into the world. It’s a vision of empowering all UW students to have more impact in society. We are embarking on an exciting next phase in enabling innovation mindsets and entrepreneurial thinking across campus and the community.

We foster innovation on our UW campuses not just because of its deep economic impact, but also because we know it can create a world of good. Our students are embracing their areas of interest by working to solve the world’s most pressing problems. Teaching innovation and creativity gives our students an extraordinary advantage, whatever path they ultimately choose to pursue. We want every single UW graduate to have the opportunity to be part of the energy and passion that is our innovation ecosystem: to know that they can change the world.

The UW Innovation Agenda is an integrated plan to drive positive change for our state by empowering students and researchers to learn, discover and build the solutions to tomorrow’s challenges. At its core, it is about taking our innovation ecosystem to the next level — by leveraging our strengths across the UW and throughout our region as we work together.

This includes improving access to computer science and engineering classes and actively working to spark innovation in students, faculty and staff across the University.

Part of our Innovation Agenda is about “disruptive innovation” — something our new Vice Provost for Innovation Vikram Jandhyala is introducing as the exciting next phase of CoMotion’s mission: developing spaces, programs and partnerships for students and researchers to come together, to collaborate and to foster innovation with impact. The Innovation Agenda is strongly focused on building Innovation Ecosystems that help us create and realize ideas, and CoMotion serves as a catalyst for that mission.

We must find ways to bring our ideas, our knowledge and our inventions to people wherever they are. To address key 21st century challenges, we must be accessible, collaborative, experimental and global.
We need to approach problems in new ways, embrace mistakes and be willing to start again with a different strategy to find better solutions. We need to be nimble, adjusting course — not only in the research space, but in the teaching space as well.

We live in an increasingly global world — a world filled with international and comparative dimensions. That includes much of the work we are doing here at the University. So we must engage globally. We need to interact with people from other places, to talk to them, to share ideas, to find commonalities, to manage differences.

We need to find avenues to bring outside expertise from around the world into our University to enhance our research. We have to engage across cultures, languages, countries and global challenges. Even locally, international and global understanding is critical.
We want to make it easier for those outside of UW — at other institutions, in other regions like this one, in other states and countries — to engage and do business with us in a more productive approach that results in less friction and more opportunities for all teams involved.

Innovation is about empowering our students and researchers to learn, discover and build the solutions to tomorrow’s grand challenges. It’s about fostering that entrepreneurial mindset on our campuses and in our communities.

Yes, there is a direct cause and effect between our region’s rise to prominence in the innovation space and the UW’s tremendous success in taking innovation to impact — here, and around the world. And together, we can grow our region’s innovation ecosystem to new levels of success to make a real-world impact.