Waterloo alumnus donates $25 million to help transform education and research

Monday, October 29, 2018

The new Engineering 7 building at the University of Waterloo.

A University of Waterloo alumnus who is a successful venture capitalist and part owner of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors has donated $25 million towards Engineering 7, the University’s newest building that officially opened today.

The donation was made by Chamath Palihapitiya, a 1999 Waterloo electrical engineering graduate and the founder and CEO of Social Capital, a Silicon Valley company that specializes in technology startups, providing seed funding, venture capital and private equity.

Chamath Palihapitiya

Chamath Palihapitiya

Palihapitiya’s contribution, announced by Waterloo Engineering Dean Pearl Sullivan at Engineering 7’s opening ceremony, helped kick-start Waterloo Engineering’s highly successful “Educating the Engineer of the Future” fundraising campaign which raised just over $100 million in private sector donations from alumni, corporations and foundations. 

Engineering 7, which provides 242,000-square-feet of new facilities for students, faculty, researchers and staff, was funded through a $32.6 million investment from the federal government, and $37.3 million in private funding, which includes Palihapitiya’s $25 million gift, the largest individual campaign donation.

The building is specifically designed to enable research and teaching innovations; equipped with 3D printing facilities, a robotics hub and extensive laboratory space to support research in 5G, blockchain, the internet of things and human-machine interaction, along with student design and work spaces coupled with machine shops.

'More than an exceptional building'

“Engineers are essential to the economic health of Canada, and Waterloo Engineers are key drivers in areas of innovation, entrepreneurial endeavours and technological research,” said Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of Waterloo. “Engineering 7 is more than an exceptional building. Engineering 7 will inspire and be home to the best and the brightest engineers, researchers and leaders in the world as they tackle the most pressing global challenges facing our society.”

Palihapitiya, who acknowledged his donation in a video shown during the opening, said it’s important to give back to Waterloo Engineering so it can continue to educate the engineers of the future.

“Waterloo Engineering provided me with a truly unique education,” said Palihapitiya, who was an original member of Facebook’s senior management team. “I can link my success in life to the skills and perspective I gained in my time at Waterloo. The next generation of thinkers, leaders and doers will come from Waterloo, and I am happy to help with this journey.”

'We continue to transform how students learn'

A focal point of the Engineering 7 building designed by architectural firm Perkins+Will is the two-storey Engineering Ideas Clinic™, where students are taught theoretical concepts through hands-on experiential learning. The focus is human-centred integration of digital and hardware technologies.

Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, The Honourable Navdeep Bains, believes the Government of Canada’s investment in Engineering 7 will reap substantial rewards in the future, as this is where solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges will be conceptualized.

“This historic investment by the Government of Canada is a down payment on the government’s vision to position Canada as a global centre for innovation,” said Bains. “This means making Canada a world leader in turning ideas into solutions, science into technologies, skills into jobs and start-up companies into global successes.”

In addition to Engineering 7, the Educating the Engineering of the Future campaign supports a number of initiatives including establishing research chairs in emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, as well as increasing graduate scholarships. 

“The overwhelming support the Educating the Engineer of the Future campaign received confirmed for us that we have a solid global reputation for excellence and for uniquely preparing students for the future,” said Sullivan. “With the opening of Engineering 7, we continue to transform how students learn to be engineers by giving them even earlier opportunities to experience what it is to be a 21st century engineer, while dramatically expanding facilities for students with entrepreneurial aspirations and supporting bold, new research at the highest levels.”