Former UC President Dynes Views CalIT2 as a New Paradigm for Innovation

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UCSD and UC Irvine, using about a third of the state funding, and Smarr said industrial partners have provided another $93 million since 2000. “We’ve probably interacted with hundreds of researchers supported by at least 300 federal grants and probably 200 companies,” Smarr told me. “Our buildings have only been here for three years, and we have room for a thousand innovators.”

Some of the CalIT2 programs that reflect the scale of such thinking include:

—Creating a “cyberinfrastructure” in partnership with the J. Craig Venter Institute and UCSD’s Center of Earth Observations and Applications to help analyze and store “metagenomic” data that precisely details the genomic sequences of millions of marine microorganisms. A $24.5 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation funded the program, with Venter supplying much of the data from his institute’s Sorcerer II oceanographic expedition to collect marine organisms.

—Development of a new computer-networking architecture for scientific research and innovation, dubbed the “OptIPuter,” because it links ultra-fast fiber-optic communication networks (operating at speeds as high as 10 gigabits per second) with Internet Protocol and data-intensive computer storage and processing. Funded by a five-year, $13.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the network was built with help from dozens of academic institutions, government agencies, and advanced technology companies.

—Development of a wireless Internet information system for paramedics, firefighters, and other “first responders’ in disasters, using $4 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health. Smarr says this program in particular represents CalIT2’s penchant for collaboration because “who else is going to do research for the first responders? Nobody. So CalIT2 took it.”

At lunch, Dynes said such multi-disciplinary, inter-campus institutes have become the University of California incubators where “innovation really happens.” Dynes also recalled with a laugh that in mid-2000, he had urged then-Gov. Davis to support funding for the proposed institutes while they were both attending the inauguration of Mexican President Vicente Fox in Mexico City.

“The way Gray Davis talks, I was practically twisting his arm,” Dynes said. “Now I think he views the UC institutes he created as his legacy legacy.”

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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