$20 million gift launches design institute

I just returned from Chicago, where I had the great honor of taking the stage with President Bill Clinton and Dr. Paul Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Qualcomm and chair of our advisory board, as Paul announced a $20 million commitment that he and his wife, Stacy, are making to launch an Institute of Design Innovation here in the college.

Paul and I were in Chicago to take part in Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America, an annual gathering of leaders in business, government and civil society who make commitments to create jobs, stimulate growth and foster innovation in the United States. Paul chose to announce his gift (go to the 9:20 mark) before a nationwide audience at CGI America because he sees how critical Berkeley Engineering and its graduates are to our future as an innovation economy.

Dean Sastry and President Clinton join Paul Jacobs onstage in Chicago for the gift announcement. (Courtesy Clinton Global Initiative America)Dean Sastry and President Clinton join Paul Jacobs onstage in Chicago for the gift announcement. (Photo by Clinton Global Initiative America)“Today, it is not enough to provide our future engineering leaders with technical skills,” Paul says. “They must also learn how to work in interdisciplinary teams, how to iterate designs rapidly, how to manufacture sustainably, how to combine art and engineering, and how to address global markets. Berkeley’s deep strength in technology combined with its leadership across a broad range of disciplines makes it the ideal home for a program that will hone the integrated set of skills students will need to create our future.”

This gift from Paul and Stacy Jacobs, who each hold multiple degrees from Berkeley, enables the college to greatly expand the role of design and fabrication in engineering education. With the help of a college-wide task force, chaired by Professor Al Pisano, we are developing educational programs that focus on incorporating design throughout the engineering curriculum. We will also begin planning a studio facility where students can create advanced technologies and test their potential for marketplace adoption.

“In these design studios, students can build new devices and services—for education, for health care, however they can improve people’s lives around the world,” Paul told Bloomberg Businessweek in an interview after the CGI America announcement. “But, best of all, they’ll get the satisfaction of doing actual designing and making early in their education—and the motivation to continue.”

In Paul’s words, it’s all about widening the pipeline to rewarding engineering careers. “We chose Berkeley,” he says, “because it graduates more than 1,200 engineers each year. And roughly a quarter of them are women. Diversity is critical for successful innovation, and Stacy and I see Berkeley as a place that embraces diversity.”

S. Shankar Sastry
Dean and Roy W. Carlson Professor of Engineering
Director, Blum Center for Developing Economies
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