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UCSC to launch new support center to advance the university’s innovation, industry engagement

By Scott Hernandez-Jason
UC Santa Cruz

April 6, 2021 — Santa Cruz, CA

(Photo above: The research enterprise at UC Santa Cruz sets the stage for the Hub to accelerate current work in business development, industry alliances, technology transfer, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Source: UCSC)

The Innovation and Business Engagement Hub will serve as the connection point for the campus’s innovation ecosystem and a consistent point of entry for potential industry partners and supporters

UC Santa Cruz is launching a new support center to advance innovation, entrepreneurship and business engagement that will leverage the campus’s innovative spirit and be guided by its deep commitment to environmental and social justice. Its creation will help support the campus community in bringing to market cutting-edge research and ideas from faculty, students and innovators, expanding corporate philanthropy and partnerships, creating more career pathways for students, and supporting a thriving regional economy.

The UC Santa Cruz Innovation and Business Engagement Hub (The Hub) is designed to facilitate and strengthen connections between students, faculty, staff, alumni, industry leaders and investors, and the community. The Hub will serve as the nexus for UC Santa Cruz’s innovation community, the business community, our innovation partners, and investors.

The Hub will be a central support center for campus community members seeking guidance and assistance in industry partnership development, technology transfer and licensing. The Hub will also serve as a single point of entry for current and prospective industry partners and investors seeking to work with the campus. The Hub will foster and facilitate relationships around university innovation and IP for the benefit for the university, our partners, and the region.

“Every day UC Santa Cruz researchers are pursuing answers to society’s most pressing challenges,” Chancellor Cynthia Larive said. “We can help ensure this work creates a real, transformative impact by connecting the research and ideas of our faculty, students and researchers with industry, donors, investors and other organizations.”

The campus has begun a national recruitment for an associate vice chancellor for innovation and business engagement to lead the Hub. UC Santa Cruz is seeking a collaborative leader to create a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem that will position the campus and the region for growth and long-term success by working in partnership with the faculty director of Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development (CIED) as well as other campus center and program directors.

As part of this broader, coordinated effort Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Lori Kletzer announced today that Marco Rolandi, professor and department chair of electrical and computer engineering in the Baskin School of Engineering, has been appointed the new faculty director for CIED effective July 1, 2021.

Rolandi’s research focuses on biological and bioinspired materials and their use in bioelectronic devices, which integrate electronics with biological systems. He cofounded Cruz Foam, which makes environmentally friendly foam products using chitin, a material derived from shrimp shell waste. Rolandi is also the scientific founder of KitoTech Medical, a Seattle-based medical device company launched in 2012 to develop a wound closure device.

The first work of the Hub will be to identify new opportunities for connecting potential industry partners with UC Santa Cruz and build partnerships with faculty to help advance their work.

Kletzer said the Hub will be supported by an internal advisory group that includes the deans, the faculty director of the CIED, entrepreneurs-in-residence, and other key campus leaders; as well as an external advisory group that will guide its work with industry and investors.

“The Hub is about creating opportunities for our innovators and entrepreneurs— students, faculty and researchers—to work more effectively with businesses and nonprofits,” Kletzer said.

The Hub brings to fruition a number of recommendations that have been made through campuswide conversations about entrepreneurship and industry partnerships including the 2019 Task Force on Entrepreneurship and the UCSC Foundation’s Task Force for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The Hub also represents a creative approach by campus units to pool staff resources and expertise to create a unified effort to advance the work of the university. While units across the university will be connected to the Hub, early collaborators include the Office of Research, University Relations, the Division of Student Affairs and Success, and the UCSC Silicon Valley Extension’s Career Services office.

Vice Chancellor for Research Scott Brandt said the research enterprise at UC Santa Cruz has never been stronger, setting the stage for the Hub to accelerate current work in business development, industry alliances, technology transfer, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

“Our faculty are driven to push the boundary of what’s possible—whether advancing computer chip architecture or developing novel compounds with potential medicinal uses,” said Brandt, who oversees the Office of Research. “This initiative will enable more collaborations, open up new lines of inquiry, and ultimately advance our overall mission as a university.”

In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, UC Santa Cruz researchers secured $189.8 million in funding, an all-time high that is 14 percent above the previous year. Faculty, staff and students were awarded 20 U.S. and 22 foreign patents, bringing the campus total to 153 U.S. and 169 foreign patents, and filed 101 U.S. and foreign patent applications, also an all-time record. UC Santa Cruz signed more than two dozen license and option agreements.

“The combined effort to build an innovation and entrepreneurial network that includes our alumni, donors and friends of the university will allow us to do so much more than what we could do as one division alone,” said Vice Chancellor for University Relations Mark Delos Reyes Davis. “The Hub presents a real opportunity to strengthen the network and grow the campus’s base of supporters.”

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