Some of the most ground-breaking green research in the U.S. is accomplished in our universities. But how quickly do those innovations filter down into the commercial marketplace? The University of California at San Diego would like to accelerate that “trickle-down” effect, and now a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the Department of Energy is going to help them do so.
The key players involved in the new program will be the U.C. San Diego William J. von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement (at the Jacobs School of Engineering) and the Rady School of Management (in partnership with San Diego State University). Together, they plan to hold a series of Regional Energy Innovation Challenges that will provide fellowships and mentoring support for students and faculty working on promising energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. “Innovator teams” comprised of advisors, faculty members, science, engineering, and MBA students from both universities will collaborate to develop and execute commercialization plans, while a virtual network will keep these innovators teams, entrepreneurs and investors connected and cognizant of other initiatives in clean energy on campus, in the region and around the world.
The von Liebig Center has been around since 2001 and has been referred to as “an important conduit for commercializing innovative technologies” developed at the U.C. San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. Over the years, the Center has advised more than 290 projects and allocated close to $4 million in proof of concept grants and business advisory services to more than 70 projects, and contributed to the license of six technologies and the creation of more than 26 start up companies. In turn, those start ups have attracted close to $100 million in subsequent capital from the private sector and created over 180 new jobs in the fields of healthcare diagnostics, software, and cleantech.
Rosibel Ochoa, director of the U.C. San Diego von Liebig Center, said, in a statement, “The proposed program will leverage our collective experience and expertise in early-stage technology commercialization and make it available to the San Diego region to commercialize energy technologies. This platform can be translated and adapted to the other convergence sectors that are currently emerging in San Diego.” Ochoa was also the principal investigator of the Department of Energy grant, which is part of an overall $5.3 million DOE program to enhance university-based innovation ecosystems around energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.