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Creating an epicenter of commercialization

At its heart, commercialization moves ideas with impact into the lives of people who benefit most. Right here on campus, our students are going beyond improving lives; they are cultivating a lifelong passion for discovery that leads entrepreneurism in our region and our country.

At the UW, we are committed to fostering commercialization because we know it can change the landscape of learning. How do we do it? Through programs like the Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC), the Center for Commercialization (C4C) and the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship. These programs equip students with the skills and tenacity to navigate our rapidly advancing world and encourage Huskies to think expansively, challenging them to be the first in their fields.

PolyDrop is a great example of our students daring to do. As one of 18 UW startups launched this year, PolyDrop began as a senior design project for two of our chemical engineering students. Their innovative technology is now revolutionizing the airline industry, a process supported from the start by the C4C. More than a year after taking home the top prize at the 2013 EIC, the students — now UW alumni — are working with PolyDrop full time and preparing the company to enter the market. With help from UW programs such as these, students gain exposure to experienced business and research talent, engaging them to pursue their ideas and make a difference in our world.

Our students’ passion is why we lead collegiate commercialization and their work has given the UW much to be proud of. Our New Ventures Facility was listed among the world’s top 10 business incubators in 2014, and we spun out a record-breaking 18 startups in the past fiscal year alone. In fact, we have had two successive years of record-breaking startup launches. We possess the most signed technology licenses among universities in the nation. UW startups also average 60 employees per company, increasing the opportunities for students to find a job after graduation.

Looking to the future, the UW is poised to become an epicenter for collaboration, innovation and experiential education. By providing unparalleled experiences and support for students, we believe that our culture of commercialization will transform higher education.

The next generation of medical education

Through innovation, collaboration and partnership, the University of Washington is committed to improving health care for all Washingtonians. Our outstanding medical professionals and educators are changing lives in every corner of our state, including partnerships in greater Spokane and beyond.

In Spokane, the UW delivers a high level of excellence in medical education through local partnerships, discoveries in medical research and engagement with the students and communities we serve. Our WWAMI program — the nation’s preeminent regional medical education program through the UW School of Medicine — has been serving students and communities in Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho for more than four successful decades.

In fact, The Olympian and The Everett Herald have each opined about the indisputable success of our nationally lauded program. We’re ready to collaborate with our partners and the community to expand WWAMI to the “Next Generation of Medical Education.” Toward that end, we recently launched a website that details our plans to expand Spokane’s medical school.

UW startups dare to do for the greater good

Gov. Jay Inslee
Gov. Jay Inslee (left) chats with AnswerDash co-founder Jake Wobbrock at the C4C event on the UW Seattle campus.

Provost Ana Mari Cauce, paraphrasing something I said when I first arrived in her wonderfully succinct way, described the UW’s recent success in commercialization aptly: “Dreaming is important, but dreaming is not enough.” For entrepreneurial Huskies, our Center for Commercialization (C4C) fosters the dreamers into doers, and yesterday we celebrated the center’s latest extraordinary achievement: 18 new startups in the past fiscal year. That number beats our record from the previous year and gives us a two-year average that makes us first in the nation. Even more important, it highlights how a campuswide innovation ecosystem is developing a new generation of innovators who simply dare to do.

C4C’s robust infrastructure provides support every step of the way, from connecting enterprising faculty to mentors, venture capitalists and leaders in the business community to offering students myriad opportunities to do research and participate in entrepreneurial training, mentoring programs and competitions. It not only engages discovery and learning, but it is one more way to make an impact by extending what we do on campus out into the world to do good.

At C4C’s second annual UW Startup Celebration, Gov. Jay Inslee, state and local legislators and many members of the UW and greater community came together to reflect on the bold vision that led us to this success. From medical devices and therapeutics to software and clean technology, these startups represent the breadth and depth of the impactful, life-changing research that takes place every day on our campuses.

C4C has a lot to celebrate this year. Its New Ventures Facility was named “emerging incubator of the year” by the 2014 University Business Incubators Global Index, which cited the center’s ability to produce startups with high survival and growth rates, success in fundraising and job creation levels well above the global average. The economic benefit to Seattle, the Pacific Northwest region and the state is exponential as our success attracts investors, creates family-wage jobs and leads to an increase in interstate commerce and exports.

Most importantly, C4C’s accomplishments make an impact on the greater good. Congratulations to Linden Rhoads and her entire team for making the world a better place for us all.

The optimism behind our outlook

A person can get a lot of mileage out of a dash of optimism, and the University of Washington has more than 150 years of history to prove it. From the bold actions of early visionaries who built the Territorial University to the remarkable achievements of subsequent generations who discovered the cure for tuberculosis and pioneered the human genome, an optimistic outlook — a believe-it-in-our-bones mindset that good things will happen if we pursue them — has taken us a long way. Successfully navigating a century and a half of sweeping, sometimes turbulent, change has further affirmed our upbeat institutional worldview. We are seasoned and sager, and we go boldly toward a great future.

Plenty of recent UW achievements invigorate our optimism today. First and foremost, our faculty are 21st-century leaders passionate about discovery, as evidenced by their capturing of competitive research funding that grew by $100 million in the aftermath of the 2007–09 recession. We’re equally encouraged by current rankings, which place the UW among the top five universities in the nation for research commercialization.

Our partnerships with stakeholders are stronger than ever, our undergraduates are thriving thanks to a transformed Husky Experience and the UW has just been named a great college to work for in a 2014 national survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education. And, we just closed fiscal year 2013–2014 with a record-breaking $482,452,318 in private support —exceeding last year’s total by more than $140 million.

Growing the economy is another area in which the UW delivers in a big way. All kinds of data tell us that a college degree increases one’s earning potential, but the news is even better on our campus: UW graduates consistently are among the top earners of all college graduates, according to PayScale’s 2014 college salary rankings widely reported in The Economist and The Atlantic. Perhaps less well known is the connection between per-person earnings (the individual good) and the health of our broader economy (the global good).

Between UW alumni earnings, research funding, commercialization and other outreach, including our regional and global contributions to human health, the UW’s impact on our economy is real and long lasting. Our contribution of more STEM-educated graduates than any other institution in the Pacific Northwest, a commitment we are working to grow rapidly with Seattle’s booming tech sector, shows the direct correlation between producer and product to the economy. And more broadly, growth in our capacity to partner through health care, and research and scholarship with industry, agencies and other universities on the discoveries that will shape our world is expanding the combined impact of us all.

If ever on tough days we question whether college is worth it, or whether the great public universities of our country truly address the complex challenges of the world, the answer is a resounding yes. I’ll say it again: yes, yes, and yes. The University of Washington — in partnership with our great state — sees the future through the eyes of the next generation and those who are shaping it. And we are more optimistic than ever.

A great place to work, thanks to great people

Dear Colleagues,

The University of Washington is a great place to work. Our faculty and staff bring tremendous knowledge, creative energy, a passion for discovery and a collaborative spirit across our classrooms, campuses and communities. Earlier this week, our collective passion for the UW was recognized by The Chronicle of Higher Education’s 2014 Great Colleges to Work For Survey.

The UW was ranked among 71 four-year universities as a great place to work, most notably in two categories: tenure clarity and process, and job satisfaction. The survey reported that UW faculty and staff understand and actively pursue the requirements for professional growth, and are pleased with the autonomy and resources the UW provides.

This recognition is a testament to the outstanding collaboration between the Faculty Senate and the administration over the years to clarify and refine the tenure and promotion process. And with our Whole U initiative, the UW is inspiring employees to live healthier and more balanced lives. At our kickoff event in January, more than 1,000 of us participated in the world’s largest kettlebell workout, smashing a Guinness record. Thousands more have participated in Whole U programs focused on nutrition, exercise and personal growth.

Also paramount is our commitment to retention and to our retirees. In May, we honored 475 retirees, dedicated employees who collectively served the University for 10,276 years. And in the spring we launched our new UW Encore Initiative to facilitate opportunities for retirees to enrich the UW community with their valuable time and unique experience.

The Chronicle’s ranking is a satisfying affirmation of the talent at the UW, but more importantly it is a reflection of a campus community that values the needs and contributions of every individual. Day in and day out, we are proud to work alongside you, the UW’s world-class faculty and staff, who work tirelessly to serve our students and our communities. Thank you for your passion, vision and dedication to making the University of Washington a truly great place to work.

With gratitude,

Michael K Young signature


Michael K. Young

Ana Mari Cauce
Provost & Executive Vice President

Honoring medical excellence in our state

Last week, U.S. News & World Report ranked UW Medical Center (UWMC) the 11th “Best Hospital” in the United States on its honor roll, alongside institutions such as the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Mt. Sinai Hospital. That is rare and great company to be in. UW Medicine hospitals ranked highly in the 2014–15 edition of Best Hospitals, with UWMC and Harborview Medical Center ranking in the top three in the Seattle metro area, and among the top four hospitals in the state.

This is a remarkable feat for UWMC, considering more than 4,806 medical centers across the country were analyzed. And this news comes on the heels of the UW School of Medicine’s No. 1 ranking for overall primary care by the same magazine in March.

While the numbers are impressive, the UW’s achievements are really a testament to all of the people who work at UW Medicine’s centers across the state, from medical transcriptionists in Renton to surgeons in Seattle. Our patients face everything from challenging health conditions to minor surgery, but they don’t do it alone; our medical professionals guide patients of every age and from every background with kindness, commitment and courage.

Thank you to all of the people who care for our communities with a shared ethos of health-care excellence. Your outstanding work is changing lives and transforming health through innovation, collaboration and boundless compassion.

A banner year for UW support

It has been a banner year at the University of Washington. For our fiscal year ending June 30, donors contributed a record-breaking $482,452,318 in private support, a tremendous show of confidence in the University’s outstanding students, faculty and staff. This news demonstrates in a spectacular way the momentum of the University and the deep strength of our philanthropic partnerships.

The unheralded generosity of 108,696 donors supports everything from student scholarships to scientific breakthroughs. Notably, 40,398 of those donors gave gifts of $99 or less. Those smaller gifts, which included donations to KEXP and Husky athletics, added up to a big number: $1.4 million in Excellence Funds that help Huskies.

The loyalty and vision of our alumni and friends is humbling and heartwarming. Last November, the UW was the beneficiary of the trust of UW alumnus and local philanthropist Jack MacDonald. His $56 million gift to the School of Law will support faculty, programs and student scholarships for generations to come, and made history as the largest ever in the school’s 114 years, as well as the largest ever estate gift to the UW.

Our momentum is also fueled by continuing support from our foundation partners. These organizations gave $117 million to the UW to support research grants, faculty, students and programs at home and around the world; this is only the second year in history the UW has received more than $100 million in foundation gifts.

The UW remains on a course of excellence thanks to the shared vision of our supporters and their gifts, large and small. The outstanding work of our Advancement staff, deans and faculty in every college, school and department has propelled this historic achievement. Thank you for your work in inspiring our community to support the boundless opportunities at the University of Washington.

Fostering opportunities for our veterans

Veterans make for some of the best students. They hold discipline, drive and innovation in the highest regard. They know when to lead and when to follow. When they fall down, vets get right back up. And they know that education — with the help of trusted compatriots — is the key to overcoming any obstacle.

As we celebrate Independence Day, I want to showcase how the University of Washington is committed to helping our veterans transition from service to the classroom. Combined, they’ve served thousands of tours of duty; our duty as a university is to acknowledge and reward their service with support.

Last spring, I was honored to meet a host of Husky veterans at UW Tacoma who are transforming their civilian lives through the Veterans Incubator for Better Entrepreneurship (VIBE) program. It’s a first-in-the-nation approach to developing the talent of military veterans as entrepreneurs and gives them access to valuable resources — idea development, mentoring, coaches, financial advice, work space and networking — while they pursue their UW degrees.

As deployments in Afghanistan wind down, military personnel are concluding their active duty at nearby Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) and returning to civilian life. JBLM and UW Tacoma leaders founded VIBE to enhance the South Sound’s start-up culture and to provide more options to a group of men and women perfectly suited to entrepreneurism.

VIBE’s focus on developing talent and turning ideas into viable businesses is part of the environment of opportunity we’re fostering at the UW. Watch this video to learn more about VIBE and the extraordinary veterans who are leading the charge in a new chapter of Husky entrepreneurism.

The power of unleashing ideas

One of the things I most appreciate about a major research institution like the University of Washington is that our ideas are limitless. In every UW college, school, program and discipline, people are individually and collectively engaged in the pursuit of ideas with the potential to become something transformative. With thousands collaborating in the creative process each day, the UW is able to sustain an environment of ongoing discovery, and the possibilities for innovation are boundless.

Much of the university’s focus is on finding ways to unleash this vast storehouse of human ideas and potential, and one of my principal endeavors is to lead that effort. We strive to empower people and to create an environment in which everyone feels encouraged to think expansively and broadly for the greater common good. At the same time, we aim to provide people the freedom to innovate, knowing they have the support and resources to take risks, choose unexplored paths and try bold approaches. And when great ideas are conceived, we take them where they have the capacity to make a difference.

Innovating with a purpose is and always has been fundamental to the UW’s mission. Like many others engaged in the creative process, our ideas are not complete until we connect them with the larger world, to the great opportunities and challenges of our time. One way we achieve this is through commercialization — licensing faculty research or incubating student startups.

Korvata Inc., a UW student-led startup, won the top award at the 2014 UW Environmental Innovation Challenge. Launched in April, the company provides customers in the food and beverage and consumer-packaged goods industries with cutting-edge alternative chemistry products to help mitigate their environmental impact. Members of this student team succeeded in turning their passion for cleantech into a marketable opportunity that meets a genuine need, and many other UW students are engaged in similar pursuits.

Photo of members of the Korvata startup team
Korvata Inc., a UW student-led startup, won the top award at the 2014 UW Environmental Innovation Challenge.

Commercialization and incubating startups are not the only creative ways we link with the larger community. Ideas with impact can be found in scholarly publishing, delivering health care, crafting public policy and creating partnerships with the community on a host of activities essential to a vibrant, successful society. Indeed, nearly every aspect of our world is predicated on ideas that can be applied in solid, practical ways.

No matter how our faculty, staff and students innovate, the UW is committed to providing the opportunities and the resources that will unleash their ideas. This is the higher purpose of higher education — where the real strength of our thinkers, creators and doers will flourish.

The UW’s impact in Spokane

After several wonderful days on the road together, I bid adieu to our 31 new faculty members on the Faculty Field Tour who are continuing on their statewide tour through northeastern Washington and the Okanogan. It was gratifying to see their enthusiasm for learning about the state and to watch them engage with our various hosts along the way. Provost Cauce has joined the tour and will get to know this accomplished group of young faculty.

Last night we were warmly welcomed to Spokane by Mayor David Condon. I’ve been watching and admiring the city of Spokane for a long time, going back to my days as president of the University of Utah. One of the things I admire most is the community of civic, business and education leaders who work tirelessly to chart a vision for this area and champion it into a reality.

A terrific example of this is the tremendous work the community has done to support the partnership to build Spokane’s medical school, a collaboration between the University of Washington and Washington State University. In addition to our strong partnership in medical education, our UW School of Dentistry collaborates with Eastern Washington University on our Regional Initiatives in Dental Education, which offers our dental students an opportunity to study and train in Spokane as well.

With more than 5,000 UW alumni living in eastern Washington and the greater Spokane area, more than 900 students from the region and more than $11 million in contracts with local businesses, the UW has a significant connection to this community. As we prepare to expand Spokane’s medical school and identify opportunities to increase our research presence, our commitment to Spokane is unwavering.

This is all possible thanks to our strong partnerships, valued collaborators and loyal alumni representing education, health care and the business community, who are working to make Spokane one of our nation’s great centers of health care excellence.