Changes at UC San Diego Emphasize New Role as “Innovation Engine”

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chancellor in 2012. The changes also reflect a fundamental shift away from a core focus on patent licensing that has prevailed at the University of California for decades.

“I would say that 10 years ago, or even five years ago, that tech transfer was considered a revenue driver for the university,” Roben said. But licensing revenue from tech transfer deals amounts to only about $25 million a year. That hardly moves the needle in comparison to the roughly $1 billion in federal research funding that UC San Diego receives each year, Roben said. A new attitude taking root, he added, is that “the exercise of tech transfer should be to transfer technology and not to make money.”

This changing attitude led Khosla to create the new office of innovation and commercialization—and hire Roben—in mid-2015. Since then, UC San Diego has overhauled the office of tech transfer, and changed the terms of its tech transfer deals. “For our spinout companies, we now just ask for 5 percent equity, dilutable like everybody else,” Roben said.

Programs that started since Khosla took office include:

Accelerating Innovations to Market (2017), a program run through the new UC San Diego office of innovation and commercialization, supports faculty, grad students, and other scientists who are developing technology with commercial applications. The program provides 12-month awards of as much as $20,000 for software-based technologies, and as much as $50,000 for devices and materials.

Veterans Entrepreneur Initiatives (2017), a six-week certificated course to help veterans understand how to start a business, provided by UC San Diego and the City of Carlsbad. Another initiative is Veteran Ventures, an accelerator program for veterans offered by the Rady School of Management.

UC San Diego Biomedical Incubator (2017), a student-run incubator focused on innovations in medical technologies and healthcare.

Qualcomm Institute Innovation Space (2015), offers leased space and technical resources from the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) to faculty startups, industry partners, and national laboratories. There are currently 17 resident companies in the 6,000-square-foot space on the second floor of Atkinson Hall.

The Basement (2015), an incubator in the basement of the Mandeville Center, managed by the UC San Diego Office of Alumni Community Engagement, offers business guidance from alumni and other mentors.

National Science Foundation I-Corps (2013), provides funding to UC San Diego, San Diego State University, and 65 other U.S. research universities to train qualified teams on how to systematically assess the commercial merit of their technology innovations. The I-Corps program at UC San Diego provides mentoring support and as much as $3,000 in funding for 30 teams per year.

Daniel Kane, a UC San Diego spokesman for the Jacobs School of Engineering, said all of the teams in the IGE’s inaugural class are comprised of graduate students, with collaborators across campus that include at least one faculty member. The technologies under development are:

—Solid-state laser technology for use in self-driving vehicles that relies on an unconventional phenomenon of wave physics called “bound states in the continuum.” The innovation would advance the capabilities of existing LIDAR technology, which measures reflected pulses of laser light to determine distances.

—Wearable batteries for sensors that are made of nanoparticle-based materials that are printable and stretchable. (A photo of team member Rajan Kumar, a nanoengineering PhD student who is leading the stretchable battery team, is at the top of this story.)

—Biomedical catheters and guidewires that can be used with MRI imaging, which relies on a superconducting magnet.

—Biomedical devices to prevent heat damage to the food pipe (esophagus) during heart procedures that use an electrode to quiet erratic electrical impulses causing arrhythmias.

—Precision medicine to prevent stroke.

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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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