by Melanie A. Farmer

Columbia University, led by the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the city of Rio de Janeiro are partnering on a new innovation center that will spur technological growth and research advances in critical areas such as sustainability, data science, advanced materials, smart cities, and precision medicine. The new Rio Columbia University Innovation Hub—also in partnership with Columbia Global Centers; the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA); the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP); the Mailman School of Public Health; and other University schools—will be headquartered in “the Marvelous City” of Rio and will be a place for exciting new collaborations between University faculty, researchers, and students, and key Brazilian public sector and industry leaders, scholars, students, and researchers.

“This is going to bring new, innovative, technology-based solutions to critical issues facing cities and to transform lives both locally and globally using truly interdisciplinary approaches,” said Dean Mary C. Boyce at a special ceremony held in the spring, marking the launch of the innovation hub.

While the official opening of the hub is slated for July 2016 in Rio, a number of activities are planned to kick-start the collaboration. This includes design challenges on topics of interest to the citizens of Rio and to university collaborators in New York City and Rio.

At the spring ceremony on campus, Boyce credited University Provost John Coatsworth for spearheading talks with Rio, dating back six years ago, to collaborate on such a venture. She added, “I’m really excited about our new colleagues and how this partnership is really going to expand our impact not only here at Columbia but also the impact of faculty and students from our Rio university partners.”

Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes attended the celebration and echoed Boyce’s enthusiasm about this latest Columbia-Brazil partnership. Columbia established a Global Center in Rio in 2013.

“Innovation is what Columbia does best, and to promote that in Rio has been a priority for us,” said Paes. “The creation of an innovation hub in partnership with the Rio de Janeiro Federal University will stimulate the development of applied sciences in the city. . . . To be a global city, Rio needs to be connected to state-of-the-art scientific research done in major institutions around the world such as Columbia.”

At the ceremony, hosted at SIPA, Paes and Coatsworth signed an agreement to establish the innovation hub. Also in attendance were Shih-Fu Chang, senior vice dean of the Engineering School and the Richard Dicker Professor of Telecommunications; Thomas Trebat, director of the Rio Global Center; and Merit Janow, dean of SIPA.


Top left, from left to right: Merit Janow, Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes, Mary C. Boyce, John Coatsworth, and Thomas Trebat. Top right: Following the announcement, Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes (left) in conversation with Rit Aggarwala, adjunct professor at SIPA who specializes in cities, environmental programs, and transportation. (Photos by Lynn Saville)