Three University Teams Get Early Stage Funding

A collaborative program coordinated by the San Diego mayor’s office will provide a total of $150,000 in grants to help commercialize cleantech technologies being developed by three research teams at UC San Diego and San Diego State University.

The pre-seed funding comes at a time when local VC funding has evaporated, and many local technologists and entrepreneurs are struggling like hard-scrabble farmers to raise capital. The three $50,000 grants awarded by the San Diego Clean Tech Innovation and Commercialization Program are intended to fund proof-of-concept studies and prototype development, according to Jacques Chirazi, cleantech program manager for San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders. Each of the three university research teams also will get business mentoring services from advisors working through the William J. von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism at UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering.

The three grants, which were culled from 13 proposals, represent the second round of funding since 2007, when the city launched a cleantech initiative in collaboration with the von Liebig Center. The program awarded its first three $50,000 grants in late 2008, when it was called the The Clean Tech Innovation Challenge, as the nationwide recession was tightening its grip and the San Diego regional economy was in a free fall. The three recipients are:

—Software technology developed by UCSD computer science and engineering professor Rajesh Gupta and UCSD research scientist Yuvraj Agarwal helps reduce energy consumption in computer networks and server farms by enabling the machines to “sleep” when they’re not in use.

—Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Alexander Gershunov, postdoctoral scholar Kristen Guirguis, and Stephen Bennett have developed new ways to forecast severe cold weather by as much as 40 days. The researchers’ technology could be used to develop customized risk assessments of supply chain management and energy consumption by using decision-support software that links weather and climate research.

—San Diego State University chemistry professor Douglas Grotjahn is developing and testing low-cost catalysts for generating hydrogen from water. The catalysts can be used in a system that uses water and sunlight to produce hydrogen.

The San Diego Clean Tech Innovation and Commercialization Program is a collaboration that includes the city of San Diego, UCSD’s von Liebig Center, San Diego State University, Cleantech San Diego, and UCSD’s Sustainable Solutions Institute. Lead sponsors of this year’s program include the Sempra Energy Foundation, the Kaplan Family Trust, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and the Knobbe Martens Olsen & Bear law firm.

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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