Within CU Denver’s visionary 2030 strategic plan, goal four marks the creation of an open innovation district that will cultivate new technology, partnerships and programming, diverse talent, and in-demand jobs, all in one hub located in the heart of downtown Denver. The university is one step closer to achieving that goal as it moves forward with plans for a new building that will house interdisciplinary computing initiatives the campus is pursuing and serve as the anchor for its innovation district.
“Innovation districts are leading-edge developments that bring together key partners around economic, physical, research, and networking assets while creating active, vibrant places that attract people. The entrepreneurial ecosystem sparks new companies, creates jobs, and nurtures the creative economy,” said Anthony Graves, managing director of partnerships and innovation. To date, innovation districts have had an impact on dozens of cities across the U.S., including Boston, Philadelphia, and Cambridge.
CU Denver’s open innovation district will be a vibrant, open-access hub of intellectual and creative vigor that leverages its anchor institution status, diverse student body, research assets, and downtown location in the heart of Denver’s historic business, retail, and cultural center, across the street from the world-renowned Larimer Square and the city’s theater district. Prioritizing place-making and sustainable, mixed-use development, CU Denver’s innovation district will architect blended spaces that encourage creative thinking, nurture living laboratories, power the future of discovery, and advance equity in computing.
With its wide range of existing inter-program collaboration and flexibility across all seven schools and colleges, CU Denver is in a prime position to lead efforts to diversify the technology economy in the Denver region by cultivating a talent pipeline that is both local and diverse.
Why engineering and interdisciplinary computing? Because Colorado has a growing need for a diverse tech talent pipeline.
Tech jobs are in demand now more than ever as the industry continues to expand on a global, national, and regional level. Data shows that jobs in computing and related technologies are among the fastest growing, with an additional 9 million positions expected between 2021 and 2022. In the Denver metro region alone, nearly 10% of the 1.4 million jobs are in STEM fields, with growth expected across numerous sectors, from healthcare to banking and everything in between.
“To maintain a competitive edge within the state of Colorado and against other global cities vying for investment, corporate expansion, and population growth, Denver needs to continue to enhance its economic resiliency and quality of life,” said Martin Dunn, interim chief research officer and dean of the College of Engineering, Design and Computing. “By investing in the city of Denver, CU Denver is investing in an engine of the economy, culture, and society.”
At the campus level, the industry demand for CU Denver graduates, as well as the interdisciplinary nature of the university’s curriculum and alignment with employer needs, shows in numbers: In just two years, tracks in computing-related degrees in both engineering and business have grown 50% – 300%, and a new computing BA degree program jumped from 0 to well over 200 students. The College of Engineering, Design and Computing (CEDC) welcomed a record number of students—and its most diverse class ever—for the fall 2021 semester and has grown by nearly 50% over the last four years.
The new engineering, design and computing building will bring to campus more physical space for in-demand technology programs while consolidating many physically disconnected spaces. Engineering programming, for example, is currently housed in seven different buildings. One of the buildings that CEDC will be moving out of, called Boulder Creek, will be renovated by the Community College of Denver to accommodate changes to their programming.
The innovation district as a whole promises to leverage the best expertise across fields, grow economic opportunity for diverse communities, and catalyze public-private partnerships within the city of Denver and beyond.
Why CU Denver? Because we understand what it means to contribute to a culturally competent workforce.
Best-in-class companies recognize that a diverse, culturally competent workforce enriches creativity and business outcomes. CU Denver’s unwavering commitment to equity and social mobility, paired with an increasingly diverse student body and top-flight academic and experiential programs, puts it in a prime position to create the future of diverse talent in tech.
The university will use the new engineering, design and computing building, and the entire open innovation district, to dramatically expand the tech talent pipeline, leveraging its status as a national model for educating and preparing diverse learners in ways that are culturally responsive and meet the needs of employers.
As the anchor for CU Denver’s innovation district—one of only 100 innovation districts in development around the world—the new engineering, design and computing building promises to excel the university in a more equitable direction, activate unconventional partnerships to create new technologies, and prepare students for the jobs of the future.
State Funding Priorities Remain Unchanged, Additional Improvements Required
CU Denver foresees the new engineering, design and computing building setting the stage for its innovation district, making it a top priority within its strategic plan. The building has been and remains on the request list for state funding while CU Denver pursues other sources of funding, including utilization of one-time resources, public/private partnerships, and renewed fundraising effort.
As reported on earlier in the spring, CU Denver has put forth the CU Denver Building project as its first request for state funding consideration to improve the building through capital renewal and renovation investments. CU Denver continues to analyze the physical plant of its campus as a whole and knows that additional maintenance, renovations, and space are required to help advance its 2030 Strategic Plan for making education work for all.