Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs gives UCSD $14M to study politics, economics

Joan and Irwin Jacobs are donating $14 million to UC San Diego
(San Diego Union-Tribune )

The gift will go to the university’s School of Global Policy


Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs and his wife Joan — whose donations have helped turn UC San Diego into a national power in health, engineering and medicine — gave the campus $14 million Friday, April 23, to boost its presence in politics and economics.

The gift was made to the university’s School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS), which recently recruited Caroline Freund, a prominent economist at the World Bank, to succeed Peter Cowhey as dean.

The Jacobs have been supporting GPS since 2006 and they have committed more than $300 million to UCSD projects since the late 1990s. The donations have been be used to do everything from help build a large university hospital in La Jolla to training engineers who focus on e-commerce and earthquake safety.

The new gift “will help (GPS) look at questions like whether it is more important for America to be a leader in electrical battery technology or quantum computing if it wants to remain a premiere center for innovation,” Cowhey told the Union-Tribune on Friday, April 23. “We also could look at whether the public health systems of low-income countries can be vastly improved by 5G,” or fifth-generation broadband technology.

Both questions are of great interest locally. Qualcomm is the world’s largest maker of smartphone chips and is a leader in 5G technology. UCSD has a major battery-technology research program. The campus also is home to the San Diego Supercomputer Center and one of the largest computer science programs in the country.

Irwin Jacobs’ donations have been particularly important UCSD’s rise in engineering and medicine — and in the hybrid field known as in bioengineering.

At 87, he continues to nurture the program — and track how technology is evolving internationally.

“If you look at things driven by the pandemic you’ll see a lot of fast progress,” Jacobs said on Friday, April 23. “We’re all becoming more used to telecommunting, telehealth, mobile health. Education resists (this) a bit. I think we’ll find out how to do that better remotely.

“We’re seeing change. The problem is having people adjust to those changes enough so that they might benefit from them and don’t fight them.

The $14 million gift also will support Pacific Leadership Fellows, a program in which leaders from around the world live in San Diego for a while to share knowledge about their home countries.

The fellows have included such figures as Agustín Carstens, who served as finance minister under Mexico President Felipe Calderón, and Yoriko Kawaguchi, the former minister for foreign affairs in Japan.

UCSD is trying to build on its broad foundation in international affairs. Its GPS program has several well-known China experts, including Susan Shirk, and it is heavily involved in nuclear deterrence and non-proliferation policy.

Cowhey recently advised the Biden administration on how to better compete with China in science and technology, and he has brought several prominent speakers to campus, including former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and former Australia Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
— Gary Robbins is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune