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Lakireddy Gift Promotes Engineering and Entrepreneurship

October 8, 2012

A generous gift from a Valley family with long ties to UC Merced will give the campus a legacy fund that firmly establishes its leadership role in regional entrepreneurialism.

The Dr. and Mrs. Vikram Lakireddy Innovation and Design Clinic Endowed Fund will also help transform engineering studies by giving students experience in applying engineering principles and methods to pressing engineering issues for real businesses and nonprofit groups.

“The Lakireddy endowed fund’s legacy is in supporting highly intelligent, capable students in creating and executing solutions to real problems outside the classroom,” said School of Engineering Dean Daniel Hirleman. “It’s critical that students engage with the community and experience exactly how engineers help people and change the world.”

Solving the world’s problems, including delivering energy, food, medical services, and clean air and water, takes an understanding not only of complex theory, but of actual application, teamwork, innovation and entrepreneurship.

The School of Engineering’s Innovation and Design Clinic is a semester-long program designed to do just that. Engineering seniors participate in the Clinic as they earn accredited degrees. The Clinic matches students with area businesses and nonprofits that become their clients and mentors, and challenges the students to become entrepreneurs of their knowledge, skills and research applications.

Businesses and nonprofits give the Clinic’s four-student teams actual problems requiring innovative solutions, and client-partners provide funds to support the above-and-beyond learning experience.

That’s where the six-figure Lakireddy gift comes in. The money will give more nonprofits the ability to participate in the Clinic.

Vikram Lakireddy, M.D., grew up in Merced and returned here recently to practice cardiology with his father, the principal donor for the Dr. Lakireddy Auditorium on the UC Merced campus.

Lakireddy said he wanted to give this gift now, rather than later in his career, to support businesses and help foster the community’s entrepreneurial spirit.

“The students get interesting and indispensable experiences partnering with community businesses and engineers to design, prototype and test solutions to engineering problems,” Lakireddy said. “I'm so pleased that UC Merced is mobilizing to help businesses and nonprofits while building capacity in the region. There is strong evidence that university graduates stay locally when they are able to develop their ideas and establish viable businesses locally.  I look forward to other partners joining us in supporting this program."