Knight Foundation invests $15M in FIU, UM, Baptist Health to expand Miami’s tech talent, accelerate innovation – Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation invests $15M in FIU, UM, Baptist Health to expand Miami’s tech talent, accelerate innovation

The three grants, part of Knight’s ongoing strategic investments to grow Miami’s tech and entrepreneurship community, will help boost computing and data sciences education at both universities and launch a health care innovation fellowship at Baptist Health. 

MIAMI – Feb. 24, 2021 – Recognizing that Miami’s burgeoning technology sector will require a deep pool of computing and data sciences talent, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced today $15.3 million in commitments to two cornerstone educational institutions — Florida International University and the University of Miami — and to leading health system Baptist Health South Florida.

FIU will receive $10 million to expand what will become known as the Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences, the University of Miami will receive $4.3 million to grow its Institute of Data Science and Computing, while Baptist Health — the region’s largest health care provider — will receive $1 million to launch a health care innovation fellowship.

The investments bring to more than $55 million the amount Knight has committed to support Miami’s emerging tech entrepreneurship ecosystem since 2012, starting with meetups, convenings and the city’s first co-working space. The strategy expanded to investing in organizations that support high-impact entrepreneurs, attract venture investors, and ensure that Miami’s tech ecosystem is as diverse as the city itself. The latest investments mark an evolution to supporting institutional partners who can develop technical talent at scale and meet the demands of local industry.

“Miami is emerging as an international tech hub, both through the success of local startups and the recent influx of companies and investors. Demand for technical talent is rising, and we’re just at the beginning of the trajectory,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight president and CEO. “These investments will assure that there will be a deep pool of talent for Miami’s growing tech sector while creating opportunities for Miamians of all backgrounds.”

“FIU, UM and Baptist share one common imperative: investing in the people of Miami. And they are doing so by providing Miamians the tools to succeed in the local and global tech and innovation economy,” said Raul Moas, director of Knight’s Miami program. “When exceptional talent and accessible capital come together, entrepreneurship and innovation flourish. With these investments, Knight is betting big on Miami’s greatest asset, its people, who increasingly seek to contribute to the city as tech entrepreneurs and venture builders.”

A closer look at Knight’s investments:

Florida International University ($10M)

Knight’s investment will help increase the faculty by 64%; increase and accelerate the flow of graduates into the workforce from the university’s computer science and engineering school; and help retrofit with state-of-the-art computing equipment, 20,000 square feet of interactive research and teaching space at the newly renamed Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences. It will help the school redesign its career advising programs and curriculum to align with the future needs of Miami’s tech sector, building greater career pathways for students.

FIU is No. 1 in the nation for the number of engineering and computing degrees awarded to Latino students, and No. 6 in degrees awarded to African American students. FIU is Florida’s second-largest university and plays a key role in providing top-quality education to nearly 60,000 students, more than 80% of whom are from Greater Miami. About 21% of FIU’s computer science and engineering undergraduates are first-generation students, and 18% are female―a number that has grown 115% since 2016. 

Knight’s investment, part of a more than $106 million commitment of new funding by the University to the School of Computing and Information Sciences, will be matched with $16 million in private contributions. Through this support, FIU seeks to dramatically accelerate the pace of growth and modernization of the Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences. 

“The Knight gift enables us to have broader shoulders to support interdisciplinary research and industry collaborations, as well as develop tech talent for South Florida and the state,” FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg said. “We look forward to working with industry to educate innovative problem solvers who are ready to lead.”

University of Miami ($4.3M)

The University of Miami will use Knight funding to expand its Institute of Data Science and Computing (IDSC) by creating six endowed faculty chair positions. These Knight Chairs, coupled with the recently launched Master’s of Science in Data Science program, will enable IDSC to better prepare students for careers in data science with critical, real world applications and experiential learning opportunities. The new faculty members will work with students to boost research that uses data to solve real-world problems and enhance the understanding of data science among the public. The Institute hosts research programs on key areas, including atmospheric, oceanic and earth sciences, biological sciences, health care and urban planning and smart cities.

Knight’s investment, together with $2 million of existing Knight endowed funds held by the University, will unlock an additional $6 million in matching funds from local philanthropists Phillip and Patricia Frost. This will bring the total endowment for these six Knight chairs at IDSC to more than $12 million.

“This investment in our Institute for Data Science and Computing demonstrates the Knight Foundation’s commitment to transformative philanthropy,” University of Miami President Julio Frenk said. “As the University of Miami embraces this turning point in the evolution of technology—catalyzing data-intensive research to solve pressing societal problems—we are grateful for the support of partners like the Knight Foundation.”

Baptist Health South Florida ($1M) 

Baptist Health will launch the Knight Foundation Fellowship in Healthcare Technology Innovation, a year-long, multidisciplinary fellowship designed to bring together individuals from diverse professional backgrounds — including administration, engineering, legal and financial — to develop health care products and become familiar with the principles that guide health care innovation.   

Fellows will also learn about legal and intellectual property protection, business modeling, market competition and community development. The program’s diverse teams will be composed of equal numbers of community innovators and Baptist Health employees. Baptist Health Innovations designed the curriculum and will operate the fellowship.  

The $1 million Knight investment will be matched dollar-for-dollar by external contributors, thereby providing resources to sustain the fellowship for several years.   

“We are delighted and grateful that the Knight Foundation shares our vision of the role Baptist Health can play in optimizing the economic vitality of our region,” Baptist Health Executive Vice President & Chief Administrative Officer Joe Natoli said. “We are particularly excited about the collaboration that will occur among a diverse group of local fellows with health care experts and regional business leaders. This will be the first of many opportunities for entrepreneurs and startup ventures to benefit from access to, and support by, Baptist Health, its clinicians and innovation team.”    

Knight’s investments in the arts in Miami

In addition to supporting Miami’s tech entrepreneurship ecosystem, Knight has invested more than $170 million in Miami artists and organizations over the past decade. The city’s emergence as a year-round arts and cultural hub is often cited as a factor in attracting business.


About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy.

About Florida International University

Florida International University is Miami’s public research university, focused on student success. According to U.S. News and World Report, FIU has 26 top-50 rankings in the nation among public universities and Washington Monthly Magazine ranks FIU among the top 20 public universities contributing to the public good and No. 12 for social mobility. FIU is a top U.S. research university (R1), with more than $200 million in annual expenditures. FIU ranks 15th in the nation among public universities for patent production, which drives innovation, and is one of the institutions that helps make Florida the top state for higher education. The Next Horizon fundraising campaign is furthering FIU’s commitment to providing students Worlds Ahead opportunities. Today, FIU has two campuses and multiple centers, and supports artistic and cultural engagement through its three museums: Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, the Wolfsonian-FIU, and the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU. FIU is a member of Conference USA, with more than 400 student-athletes participating in 18 sports. The university has awarded more than 330,000 degrees to many leaders in South Florida and beyond. For more information about FIU, visit

About the University of Miami

The University of Miami is a private research university and academic health system with a distinct geographic capacity to connect institutions, individuals, and ideas across the hemisphere and around the world. The University’s vibrant and diverse academic community comprises 11 schools and colleges serving more than 17,000 undergraduate and graduate students in more than 180 majors and programs. Located within one of the most dynamic and multicultural cities in the world, the University is building new bridges across geographic, cultural, and intellectual borders, bringing a passion for scholarly excellence, a spirit of innovation, a respect for including and elevating diverse voices, and a commitment to tackling the challenges facing our world.

About Baptist Health South Florida

Baptist Health South Florida is the largest healthcare organization in the region, with 11 hospitals, more than 23,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 100 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Baptist Health has internationally renowned centers of excellence in cancer, cardiovascular care, orthopedics and sports medicine, and neurosciences. In addition, it includes Baptist Health Medical Group; Baptist Health Quality Network; and Baptist Health Care On Demand, a virtual health platform. A not-for-profit organization supported by philanthropy and committed to its faith-based charitable mission of medical excellence, Baptist Health has been recognized by Fortune as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in America and by Ethisphere as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies. For more information, visit and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Image (top) by Florida International University.