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Business & Economy

Historic $110 million donation will establish Ohio State software innovation center

Timashev Family Music building dedication October 23, 2022. Jeremy W. Smith (left) talks with Ratmir Timashev (right).
The Ohio State University
Timashev Family Music building dedication October 23, 2022. Jeremy W. Smith (left) talks with Ratmir Timashev (right).

An alum of The Ohio State University donated $110 million to the university, the largest donation it has ever received.

The funds from Russian IT entrepreneur Ratmir Timashev will establish the Center for Software Innovation at OSU. He made the historic announcement Thursday at a public meeting of the university’s board of trustees.

Timashev graduated from OSU in 1996 with a Master's degree in chemical physics and said his time at the university shaped his career.

He said the Center for Software Innovation can help central Ohio became a “high-tech Mecca.” “By creating an ecosystem centered around software innovation, we will empower this next generation to change the world and to do it from The Ohio State University in Columbus,” Timashev said.

Timashev said software is already one of the most valuable tools available, but its influence will grow even more.

"Every business is a software business. It doesn't matter if it's manufacturing or banking or government. All of the money in the next 50 years will be made in software," Timashev said. "Technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing and quantum computers will change the world completely in the next 5 to 10 years."

University president Kristina Johnson said the gift has value above the high dollar amount. “This is the largest single gift ever to the university. And yet, what strikes me the most is not the dollar amount. You know, it's the vision that we can be the next high-tech Mecca. Your gift will attract faculty and recruit students to a new academic program and make sure that they graduate with real world experience and support and inspire innovative software startups."

The center will combine resources from the College of Engineering, Fisher College of Business and other partners, according to university officials. It will use endowed professorships, "cutting-edge academic offerings" and hands-on industry experience for students.

The center will have a fund to assist professors teaching software innovation, offer students scholarships and internships and create an incubator program to support students and faculty, according to the university.

The donation will also fund space for the center on two floors of a "new, state-of-the-art entrepreneurship and research-focused building," in the university's Carmenton innovation district, but additional, external funding is necessary.

University leaders say they want to create a hub for "innovation, entrepreneurship and product development activity."

Timashev quoted Steve Jobs, the deceased co-founder and CEO of Apple, during the announcement. "I'd like to use another favorite quote of mine by Steve Jobs. 'Only the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.'"

Timashev also said, "Together we will define and build out a new future for our university community and the region. We will harness the creativity, optimism and momentum that is already pouring into Columbus. We're just getting started."

Renee Fox is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News.