$20 million gift from Paul and Stacy Jacobs Foundation will launch design innovation institute at UC Berkeley

June 13, 2013 by Karen Rhodes, Berkeley Engineering

Answering a national call for a more technologically literate workforce, the College of Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, announced today the launch of a new institute for design innovation that will expand the role of design in engineering education, emphasizing rapid design and prototyping for manufacturability.

Paul Jacobs webcastAs members of the Berkeley Engineering community watch via webcast from Chicago, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs announces plans for a design innovation institute at Berkeley. (Steve McConnell photo)A $20 million gift from the Paul and Stacy Jacobs Foundation enables UC Berkeley to start planning the institute’s educational activities, which focus on immersing design throughout the engineering curriculum. The campus will also begin planning a facility with studios and workshops where students can design and fabricate advanced technologies and test their potential for marketplace adoption.

Dr. Paul Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Qualcomm Inc. and president of the Paul and Stacy Jacobs Foundation, announced the gift today (Thursday, June 13) as a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action at the annual CGI America meeting in Chicago. CGI America brings together leaders in business, government and civil society to generate commitments to create jobs, stimulate economic growth and foster innovation in the United States.

Former President Bill Clinton invited Jacobs to the CGI America stage to highlight UC Berkeley’s design innovation initiative, citing its importance in advancing U.S. competitiveness.

“In our interconnected innovation economy, it is not enough to provide our future engineering leaders with technical skills,” said Jacobs. “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.”

Qualcomm is an American global semiconductor company that designs, manufactures and markets wireless communications products and services. Jacobs became CEO in 2005 and was appointed chairman in 2009. He chairs the College of Engineering’s dean’s advisory board and, with his wife, Stacy, serves as co-chair of the Campaign for Berkeley, which seeks to raise $3 billion to support students, faculty, research and programs by the end of 2013. Paul and Stacy Jacobs each hold multiple degrees from UC Berkeley.

“We are absolutely thrilled with the commitment that Paul and Stacy Jacobs have made to UC Berkeley and our design innovation initiative,” said Nicholas Dirks, who began his appointment as UC Berkeley’s 10th chancellor on June 1. “They share our confidence in our students, and their gift reflects Berkeley’s passion for creating a better world with innovations that can seed new industries, more jobs and economic growth.”

Dean Sastry and President Bill Clinton watch Paul Jacobs speakBerkeley Engineering Dean Shankar Sastry and former President Bill Clinton join Paul Jacobs onstage for the announcement at CGI America. (Courtesy Clinton Global Initiative)“As we see it, the proposed Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation will be a nexus for student innovators from throughout the college,” said S. Shankar Sastry, dean of UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering. “Our students will deal with issues related to user experience, sustainability, scalability and cost through hands-on immersion in design across the curriculum. They will also develop viable business and service models so that their inventions and ideas can deliver tangible benefits to the real world.”

Creative problem-solving using experimentation and insight, said Sastry, is best fostered through hands-on making, group interaction and prototyping with cutting-edge equipment and tools. Using computer-aided design (CAD) software, 3-D printers, electronics assembly tools and other resources, students in the design innovation institute will explore prototype design, iteration, optimization and, when indicated, commercialization of new devices and systems.

“Manufacturing will be a key focus of our proposed Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation,” said Sastry. “We want to provide our student innovators with opportunities to scale up their inventions and produce them efficiently and sustainably.”

This tight integration of design and manufacturing in one setting is unusual in engineering education, and mirrors operations in such high-tech industries as semiconductors, medical devices and energy production and distribution. In these advanced fields, designers and builders must work in tandem to test prototypes and production, iterating as they go along. And the design-fabrication cycles have accelerated – becoming a matter of days rather than weeks or months.

In fact, economists and engineers are now arguing that the close integration of research, design and manufacturing will lead to a more innovative economy. Companies that keep these activities together may be able to innovate better than those that send schematics overseas for low-wage production.

UC Berkeley’s design innovation initiative builds upon a wide range of student interest in engineering design, rapid prototyping and sustainable manufacturing at Berkeley. For more information, visit engineering.berkeley.edu.