Oregon State University announced a new $200 million research and education center on Friday, focused on supporting the semiconductor and general technology industries in the region. The center will be launched by $100 million in donations.
The university announced the new center at a fundraising campaign launch event Friday night.
The center will be named the Jen-Hsun and Lori Huang Collaborative Innovation Complex. Jen-Hsun Huang is the founder and CEO of the software company NVIDIA. He and his wife Lori are OSU graduates and donated $50 million to the OSU Foundation.
Along with the Huangs’ donation, OSU officials say another $50 million gift from an anonymous donor will help launch the new center.
The center will house a NVIDIA supercomputer, according to the university. It will also be a hub for research using artificial intelligence and robotics. Some of the center’s focuses will include research on climate change, sustainability and water issues.
“The focus is really on things that are deeply important to Oregon — all things climate, all things sustainability, all things resilience,” OSU President Jayathi Murthy said during a media conference Friday. “We’re hoping that by expanding research in these fields we will grow employment. We will provide expertise to Ph.D. students [and] undergraduate students as well.”
The Huangs attended high school in Oregon and met as undergraduates at Oregon State’s College of Engineering. They said in a statement Friday that giving engineering students access to this new supercomputer will help to accelerate research.
“We discovered our love for computer science and engineering at OSU. We hope this gift will help inspire future generations of students also to fall in love with technology and its capacity to change the world,” Jen-Hsun and Lori Huang said.
According to Murthy, the 150,000-square-foot center is being designed and will be located on the northwest corner of OSU’s main campus in Corvallis. It’s expected to open in 2025.
OSU plans to request $75 million in state bonds during the 2023 Oregon legislative session to match donations and university contributions for the center. The university said it plans also to raise an additional $25 million to support the new center.
Murthy said the center could create new areas of study for students, such as new programs for graduate students or opportunities for new undergraduate minor programs.
Oregon politicians said in statements Friday that they’re excited about the center’s potential impact on the region.
“Our state has benefited greatly from having a world-class research university like Oregon State University to allow us to develop further technological innovations and grow our high-tech workforce,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said. “The collaborative innovation complex will further enable OSU’s world-class researchers and facilities to address some of Oregon’s most pressing issues, including semiconductor research and development, climate change and public health.”
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, co-chairs a semiconductor taskforce with Brown, which has been pushing to grow the state’s semiconductor industry. The task force earlier this year released a report calling for changes to land use, taxes and other incentives in order to do that.
Back in February, Intel announced that it will build what could become the largest campus of semiconductor factories in the world in Ohio. Some industry leaders say that’s due to a lack of available land for manufacturing in Oregon.
“It’s no secret that advanced computer chips are the linchpin of the 21st-century economy,” Wyden said in a statement. “This state-of-the-art facility provides opportunity for Oregon State faculty and students to make generation-defining discoveries to push our tech industry forward.”
Oregon houses 15% of the country’s semiconductor workforce, according to a report last year from the Semiconductor Industry Association.
OSU President Murthy said the center could help the workforce by funneling experienced students into industries throughout the region.
“This is tied directly to industries, certainly through semiconductor work, certainly through the robotics work, and probably through other avenues as well, forestry and so on,” Murthy said. “So it’s another way of bringing industry into our students’ lives — it’s tied to employability. It’s tied to internships.”
Murthy said she also sees the new center as an opening to improve student outcomes.
“There’s lots of work to show that experiential learning and hands-on learning improves student retention and therefore student graduation rates,” Murthy said. “This is one of the pathways through which students can be given those kinds of exciting hands-on experiences.”
Along with in-person opportunities at the Collaborative Innovation Complex, Murthy said she expects students attending OSU online through its E-campus will also be able to attend classes tied to the center through remote laboratory experiences and virtual reality.
The Jen-Hsun and Lori Huang Collaborative Innovation Complex was not the only announcement OSU had Friday evening.
The university officially announced a new fundraising campaign, stating that donors have already committed $1 billion toward the $1.75 billion goal. The university is no stranger to billion-dollar fundraising efforts, having raised $1.14 billion through the Campaign for OSU, which concluded in 2014.
The university also announced that its under-construction $75 million arts center will be named the Patricia Valian Reser Center for the Creative Arts. Prior to that announcement Friday night, a $25 million contribution from Reser toward the arts center had been kept anonymous. That arts center is expected to open in the spring of 2024.