We believe our two great countries have much to contribute to making our world better and that we can accomplish more if we work together.

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INNOVATION happens in different ways in different parts of the country and around the world. It occurs in people’s garages, in large manufacturing plants, in university labs, design studios and computer-science centers.

The Puget Sound has a storied history of innovation: milestone leaps in air travel accomplished by the Boeing Company; the fundamental way Microsoft connected our lives to the information age; the revolutionary approaches to commerce from Costco and Amazon; the miraculous treatments in cancer pioneered by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and University of Washington Medicine, just to mention some of the more remarkable and obvious ones.

It is hard to predict where and how significant innovation will occur, how ideas will be transformed. But we believe it is more than random and more than serendipitous. We believe innovation can be pursued purposefully and harnessed for improving our lives. We believe a region can nurture innovation — can develop an ecosystem, if you will — that ignites ideas and helps them grow. And we believe our region is poised yet again to play a leading role in changing for a better future.

Why? Because we also believe the most meaningful innovations of the future will result from multidisciplinary, multi-institutional and multinational collaborations to address and solve some of the world’s most perplexing challenges. Innovation in our region strives to be inclusive and democratic. It reaches beyond individual industries and institutions to include members of the community. One such example is the UW’s online Foldit game, which engages thousands of people worldwide to solve the puzzle of how proteins behave and affect human health.

Ana Mari Cauce is president of the University of Washington. Chris Gregoire is CEO of Challenge Seattle and former Washington state governor.
Ana Mari Cauce is president of the University of Washington. Chris Gregoire is CEO of Challenge Seattle and former Washington state governor.

If we are to lead as an epicenter of innovation, we must bring people together — businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions and entire communities — to identify challenges and develop solutions. Bringing together local business and nonprofit leaders, efforts like Challenge Seattle are working to ensure that our region remains strong, diverse and competitive. As pioneers of innovation, these visionary CEOs participating in Challenge Seattle are tackling issues like education and infrastructure head on with creativity, collaboration, ingenuity and a sustainable approach.

There is another dimension of inclusive innovation, and it has planted historic seeds right here in Puget Sound. We will see this happening soon in Bellevue at the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX), the partnership between the UW and China’s Tsinghua University, with founding support from Microsoft. Building on the long tradition of international faculty collaborations, the driving idea behind GIX is to bring together in one place the best students, faculty and industry experts from around the world and apply their talents to solving the challenges of our time.

In the geopolitical world, China and the U.S. may have their differences. But in the intellectual world, we both seek that next great game-changing idea that will improve people’s lives. As Microsoft President Brad Smith often says, it is hard to imagine a future in which any of us would want to live where the U.S. and China are not cooperating.

We believe our two great countries have much to contribute to making our world better and that we can accomplish more if we work together.”

This week, the two of us travel to China, accompanied by former U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke and others. Our main goal is to further our partnership with Tsinghua University and share Seattle’s ideals regarding inclusive innovation. We will also be encouraging partnerships and investment in the Puget Sound region during meetings with business and government leaders and will highlight the UW’s “Innovation Imperative” during an “Innovation Summit” the UW is convening in Shanghai.

And in an event echoing the “Ping-Pong diplomacy” of the 1970s, the Huskies men’s basketball team will play the University of Texas Longhorns, marking the first time U.S. teams have played a regular season game in China.

We want to follow this game with other firsts of a different sort. We believe our two great countries have much to contribute to making our world better and that we can accomplish more if we work together.

If we can innovate together and come up with solutions for difficult problems, we are certain to take a giant leap forward and an important one for the 21st century.