Thanks to tech startups, medical research organizations, and the aerospace industry, Seattle has earned a reputation for innovation. But what role is UW playing in all of this, and what can you do to be more innovative in your personal life?
On Friday, March 20, The Whole U is partnering with CoMotion (formerly known as C4C) to present a seminar on innovation. It’s a rare chance to meet and hear from Vice Provost for Innovation Vikram Jandhyala, the subject of recent articles in GeekWire, Seattle Business Magazine, and the Puget Sound Business Journal. He’ll be joined by marketing and business development entrepreneur Jacquelyn Jaech, a UW alum. The event is in the UW Tower Auditorium at noon. Register here.
I got a chance to speak with both of these experts and learn more about their approach to innovation. “Innovation is connecting creativity to problems that need solving,” said Vice Provost Jandhyala, who is also an electrical engineering professor. “It’s a mindset, one that we very often don’t know we have. We’re trying to make it conscious.
It’s been nine months since Jandhyala became the vice provost for innovation, a position formerly called the vice provost for commercialization. The rebranded title signifies a transition to something broader than business: while his predecessor focused on racking up patents and launching startups, Jandhyala spearheads a more comprehensive campaign to share UW’s brainpower with the Greater Seattle Area.
“Now innovation is looked at more as how to take the most creative ideas we have in the university — whether they come from students or faculty or staff — and actually make an impact inside the university and outside,” he said.
Commercialization is just one way to do this. Other ways may include finding a new cancer drug or coming up with policy solutions for city transportation.
“It’s not just about making money — it’s about improving people’s lives, improving social conditions, improving some problem that is outstanding,” Jandhyala said.
While an innovation mindset is typically linked to business and the tech industry, Jandhyala suggests it can also work wonders for departments like the School of Social Work, which CoMotion has recently partnered with. And in addition to systems, he says it can be applied to our personal lives, as well.
“Changing your daily schedule to be more healthy is an example of innovation because it’s tied to looking at things with a very rational mindset,” he said. “Very often we get set in a certain way of doing things. We can step back and learn from best practices and learn from other people.”
To help you do this, the event will feature a guided exercise led by co-presenter Jaech. Here’s what she had to say about it:
“During this event, we will discuss the five behaviors associated with innovators and how you can develop a plan to become more innovative in both your professional and personal life. The University is a uniquely rich environment for innovation simply because of the diversity of knowledge and perspectives here. Innovation is hard work, but achievable. Although you may have a flash of inspiration, as Thomas Edison said, ‘Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.’”
Space is limited, and students are welcome. Secure your spot here. In the meantime, learn more about what Jandhyala is doing with CoMotion in this video: