Earlier this month, Microsoft Research New England celebrated its fifth anniversary here at our New England R&D (NERD) facility in Kendall Square.
Annmarie Levins, Associate General Counsel, Microsoft Technology & Civic Engagement Group
Jennifer Chayes, the leader of our New England and New York research labs, organized a wonderful full-day symposium to mark the milestone and highlight Microsoft’s commitment to interdisciplinary research that she’s fostered here, with a mix of presentations by computer scientists, social scientists and economists.
Peter Lee, the head of Microsoft’s worldwide research organization, participated in the event, and I was especially inspired by some of his comments and overall optimism. He talked about this being a “Golden Age” of basic research, with the industry on the cusp of providing a new era of transformational technologies, delivering on the dream of computing devices that can see, hear, understand and act on our behalf, instead of just responding to our commands.
While Microsoft at its core is filled with technology optimists, we understand that at times, the pace at which technology is evolving taxes both individuals’ and society’s ability to cope with the changes and take best advantage of the advancements.
That’s why today I’m pleased to announce the establishment of a Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center (MIPC) New England here at NERD in Kendall Square. The vision for the Center embraces Microsoft’s interdisciplinary approach to research. We want to bring together the region’s key stakeholders from the technology, broader business, academic and government communities to respond to important issues that are byproducts or unintended consequences of technological advancements. But perhaps more importantly, we hope to use the Center to anticipate the needs of New England citizens and governments as this next wave of innovation transitions from research to reality.
We already contribute to and partner with local organizations like Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, the Mass Technology Leadership Council (MTLC), the New England Council, The Mass. Tech Hub Collaborative, The Mass. Broadband Institute and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, working on important regional technology and public policy issues that impact New England’s economy. But as part of Microsoft’s broader technology and civic engagement initiative, we feel it is important to go further, by establishing an Innovation & Policy Center here, just as we’ve done with similar locations in Washington, D.C., Silicon Valley and in international capitals such as Brussels.
Thanks to the work of many others here at NERD, Microsoft already has an important voice within the region’s tech community. But through the MIPC New England, we want to extend our presence by:
- Connecting the region’s tech/business/academic/government stakeholders in ways that complement and extend the work of others such as MTLC;
- Catalyzing important technology and public policy discussions about issues that have a direct impact on this region’s economy; and
- Contributing more directly to the health and vitality of the local technology community and broader regional economic development opportunities.
Our inaugural event is tomorrow morning. We will kick off our MIPC New England discussion series at NERD, 1 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, on a topic of critical importance: Why teaching computer science in Massachusetts high schools is essential to the future economic health of the Commonwealth and our nation as a whole.
As Microsoft’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel Brad Smith proposed in our National Talent Strategy last year, as a country we need to focus on providing the next generation with the skills and opportunities they need to secure a brighter economic future. Through our YouthSpark initiative, we are working to provide opportunities to young people around the world, including right here in Cambridge through our TEALS computer science education program, among other efforts.
Tomorrow morning we will focus on the local angle to this important issue through a panel discussion and interactive conversation about how Massachusetts can take a leadership role in helping our students develop 21st century job skills.
Allyson Knox, Microsoft’s director of Education Policy & Programs, will moderate a panel discussion with Linda Noonan, executive director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education; Steve Vinter, an engineering director at Google and co-founder of MassCAN; Pat Yongpradit, director of education, Code.org; and Jim Stanton, executive director of MassCAN and senior project manager at Education Development Center, Inc.
Please join us for breakfast around 8 a.m. followed by what will definitely be a thought-provoking discussion on this important topic. We’ll finish by 10 a.m. so you can get back to your day jobs.
(Right to Left) Allyson Knox, Linda Noonan, Jim Stanton, Steve Vinter & Pat Yongpradit
In addition to the panel discussion, I’ll have the honor of presenting The MassTLC Education Foundation with a check for $350,000 to support its important work in conjunction with MassCAN and others on expanding the availability of computer science education in Massachusetts.
Finally, I’d like to introduce you to Cathy Wissink, who recently relocated to Cambridge from Redmond, Washington, to be Director of Technology Community Engagement. Cathy will play a key role in overseeing our MIPC New England.
Cathy Wissink, Director of Technology Community Engagement
Cathy joined Microsoft in 2000 and most recently was director of Global Government Affairs within our Legal and Corporate Affairs organization. Cathy will be responsible for the 3 C’s outlined above, connecting key stakeholders across the tech/business/academic/government communities, catalyzing the right kinds of conversations, and ensuring Microsoft is contributing positively to solutions that enhance our quality of life in Massachusetts. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Cathy previously, and know that all of you will enjoy getting to know and work with her.
You can connect with Cathy directly at email@example.com.
I hope you’ll join Cathy, and others at our event tomorrow morning, where we look forward to catalyzing and contributing to the conversation on this important issue, and continuing the conversation with you on this and other topics in the months ahead.
Annmarie Levins is Associate General Counsel in Microsoft’s newly created Technology & Civic Engagement group. She and her team are responsible for leading the Microsoft Innovation & Policy Center New England, and for developing other Innovation & Policy Centers in the U.S. Annmarie, a Massachusetts native, has been based at NERD for the past five years, and is well known within the tech community here. She serves on the executive committees of the Mass. Tech Leadership Council and the New England Council, and chairs the New England Council’s Technology Committee. She also is Microsoft’s liaison to the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.