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U.S.-China tech institute GIX names building after former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

The new GIX building in Bellevue, Wash. Photo via UW.

As GIX prepares to welcome its first class, the new joint U.S.-China technology innovation institute is adding some key partners while tipping its hat to a Microsoft legend.

The Global Innovation Exchange (GIX) held a grand opening event at its new building — newly announced as the “Steve Ballmer Building,” after the former Microsoft CEO — in Bellevue, Wash., on Thursday. The event mark the launch of a first-of-its-kind graduate school designed to train students in entrepreneurship and encourage new ideas around real-world challenges by creating a unique project-based, global-focused learning environment.

GeekWire is at the event and will update this post with photos and comments from speakers shortly.

GIX was first announced in 2015 by two founding academic partners: the University of Washington and Beijing-based Tsinghua University, known as the “MIT of China,” that is the first Chinese research institution to establish a U.S. location. The program also received $40 million in support from Microsoft.

GIX held a grand opening launch on Thursday at its new building in Bellevue, Wash.

GIX on Thursday announced eight members of its new Academic Network: École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the Indian Institute of Science, Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology, National Taiwan University, Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Tecnológico de Monterrey, and the University of British Columbia.

These institutions will promote GIX to their own students and faculty while offering up potential projects for GIX students themselves.

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaking at the GeekWire Sports Tech Summit last year. (GeekWire photo / Kevin Lisota)

GIX also announced new members of its Industry Consortium: ARM, Baidu, Boeing HorizonX, and T-Mobile. GIX noted that Hainan Airlines is a “Valued Partner,” while calling out the support of InnoAngel, Taiyou, Hinacom, Bright Oceans, Elco, ZheJiang Zhong Kun, Minsheng Pharma, Fujian New East Lake, Tusstar, and Tuspark. The companies will have a chance to submit project proposals to GIX students.

“With these new members, GIX is at the forefront of collaborative innovation, not only internationally, but also between universities and industry,” UW president Ana Mari Cauce said in a statement. “Our students will have world-class faculty, professionals, and industry leaders to help ignite their passion for discovery and solving pressing global challenges.”

Microsoft’s $40 million contribution to GIX included naming rights for the new 3-story, 100,000 square-foot building nestled in Bellevue’s new Spring District development. It’s a nod to how Ballmer helped Microsoft expand its business across the world. While Ballmer was CEO, Microsoft was the first company to open a basic research facility in China. It’s partly why the company has been a partner of Tsinghua University for two decades; Microsoft has a research hub just down the street from Tsinghua’s campus in Beijing that GeekWire toured in 2015.

Outside the GIX building in Bellevue on Thursday morning. (GeekWire Photo / Taylor Soper)

“Steve had vision for how two partners could achieve more together than they ever could on their own,” Nadella said in a statement. “I can’t think of a more appropriate way to honor the Global Innovation Exchange than by naming its home the Steve Ballmer Building.”

Source: Geekwire Microsoft

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