Mountains. Rugged coastline. A decidedly wet climate that prevails three out of four seasons of the year. Yet a sense of place isn’t the only thing that unites Vancouver, Seattle, and other cities along the Pacific Northwest.

With the creation of the Cascadia Innovation Corridor, the entire region has demonstrated a deep, collaborative commitment to transforming itself into a global technology powerhouse.

The Corridor, first signed into agreement by British Columbia and Washington in September 2016, is a bold initiative that will spur economic growth and technological innovation in the region. It will encourage cross-border partnerships between governments, companies, and universities, and is poised become a boon to the high-tech, life sciences, clean tech, and data analytics industries. The Corridor also aims to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing cities and communities today, ranging from transportation to climate change.

As a leader in the BC tech economy—not only producing highly skilled graduates demanded by industry, but also developing innovative new technologies  and spinning off new companies that employ thousands of people—UBC is deeply committed to advancing the Cascadia Innovation Corridor. To date, we have demonstrated our commitment through several key partnerships and strategic initiatives.

The Cascadia Urban Analytics Cooperative

In February 2017, the University of British Columbia and the University of Washington established the Cascadia Urban Analytics Cooperative (CUAC), made possible in part by a $1 million investment from Microsoft. CUAC's goal is to leverage high-impact data science to address challenges associated with urban growth, including traffic, homelessness, and population health.

“Thanks to this generous gift from Microsoft, our two universities are poised to help transform the Cascadia region into a technological hub comparable to Silicon Valley and Boston,” said UBC President Professor Santa J. Ono. “This new partnership transcends borders and strives to unleash our collective brain power, to bring about economic growth that enriches the lives of Canadians and Americans as well as urban communities throughout the world.”

Data Science for Social Good

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One of the major initiatives within CUAC is the Data Science for Social Good (DSSG) program, an innovative summer program that allows students to apply data science to real-world research projects submitted by local and provincial governments and nonprofits. The DSSG was developed in partnership by the Data Science Institute at UBC and the eScience Institute at the University of Washington.

The DSSG Program ran its first successful year in 2017. Projects in the inaugural cohort used data science to tackle range of urban issues, such as improving educational outcomes for first-grade children and informing improvements to the transportation network in the City of Surrey.

The Global Innovation Exchange

In September 2017, the University of British Columbia became an academic network member of the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX), a first-of-its kind graduate technology school in Bellevue, Washington that strives to develop leaders in innovation. The GIX was founded by the University of Washington and Tsinghua University with $40 million in support from Microsoft.

Cascadia Venture Acceleration Network

In support of the Cascadia Innovation Corridor, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon jointly established the Cascadia Venture Acceleration Network (CVAN) in September 2017. A partnership of nearly 50 organizations—including universities, incubators, investors and industry associations—CVAN will boost innovation by introducing startups to cross-border funding and collaboration opportunities.

As part of the initiative, entrepreneurship@ubc, UBC’s startup accelerator, and the BC Tech Association are working to collectively offer "soft" landing space to select startups from Washington and Oregon. Startups will be able to access seminars, advisory services and networking opportunities, as well as resources available through other BC-based accelerators, such as funding opportunities and connections to key local institutes.

The Holographic Brain Project

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UBC has teamed up with a group of interns from the Microsoft Garage to develop a new app for HoloLens, the world’s first fully self-contained holographic computer. The new app, known as the Holographic Brain Project, will serve as an interactive teaching tool to guide students through a virtual exploration of the brain — highlighting, isolating, expanding, and rotating its many structures.

With its unique hemispheres and intricate connections, the brain is one of the most exceptional, yet complex organs in the human body. The intricate structure has posed a unique challenge for generations of students looking to understand and ultimately master how its many parts fit, and work, together.

But thanks to the HoloBrain, BC students will get to visualize the brain’s 3D structure in a way they never have before.

“There’s no denying that the human brain is extremely complicated and that makes neuroanatomy difficult to learn and teach,” said Dr. Claudia Krebs, a professor of anatomy in UBC’s faculty of medicine. “We’re very excited to be introducing the world of mixed reality into the classroom.”