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UC Merced Manufacturing Startups at New Venture Lab

October 2, 2015

Venture Lab staff members Robert Goodman, front, Sonal Gadre, left, Peter Schuerman, back, Cara Baird, seated at left and Rosalina Aranda, seated at right, are already working with teams of students and researchers on potential start-up businesses.UC Merced’s latest foray into the community, the Venture Lab, officially opens Oct. 15, but program members started work there weeks ago.

“The Venture Lab is about channeling university innovation into the creation of new businesses,” Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development Peter Schuerman said. “Students, researchers, alumni, members of the local community and people from around the state are all connecting to help each other launch new enterprises.”

Sixteen projects are already underway, with new projects coming into the program on a weekly basis. Some, such as indoor climate-control systems, regenerative medicine, desalination, precision agriculture, social media monitoring and nanotechnology, are developing around innovations from university researchers.

Other projects, such as a medical device that helps premature babies breathe, a smart control system for industrial manufacturing plants and a business that helps first-time business owners get up to speed quickly, arise from the ingenuity and problem-solving efforts of UC Merced students and alumni.

“The UC Merced Venture Lab is a university program, but we run it like a business that manufactures startup companies,” Schuerman said. “The objective is to retain talent in the region, develop the economy and bring the resources of the campus and the community together to create success for everyone.”

Grand Opening Event Planned

At 2:30 p.m. Oct. 15, Chancellor Dorothy Leland will cut the ribbon on the lab in the Ralph Shannon Parcade Building, 1735 N. M St., Merced.

Immediately after, there’s a reception for the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development Innovation Series, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Gateway Gardens, 560 W. 18th St., followed by the inaugural Innovation speaking event that is also open to all.

From 5 to 7 p.m. at the Art Kamangar Center at the Merced Theatre, 301 W. Main St., presenters will tell their stories to emphasize the importance of innovation, entrepreneurship and business development in the San Joaquin Valley and, in particular, greater Merced.

The speakers include three from the Venture Lab and one from the iHub Network, a program launched by the governor’s office of business development, known as GO-BIZ.

People who plan to attend are asked to RSVP to Peggy Collins.

Members Gain Applied Experience

Though the Venture Lab is not a classroom, members get hands-on education, learning the principles of entrepreneurship by actually starting companies. The Venture Lab is a partnership between the Office of Business Development and the Center for Career and Professional Advancement. The university helps students with the traditional goals of finding great jobs or deciding to go to graduate schools; the Venture Lab takes it a step further by ensuring they are also exposed to the option of creating their own opportunities, Schuerman said.

The main themes of the program are customer discovery and evidence-based entrepreneurship.  

“Coming up with new ideas for businesses is the easy part,” Schuerman said. “The hard part is market research. Entrepreneurs need to answer the question ‘Who cares?’ by talking to potential customers and determining what their needs are.”

Venture Lab members have close ties with the university, but there are plenty of opportunities for people in the local community to get involved.

The UC Merced Small Business Development Center is co-located with the Venture Lab, and is ready to assist local small businesses even if they have no affiliation with the university.

“We want to help fill needs in the community,” Schuerman said. “We can help retain an educated workforce and create an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Merced that would be attractive to companies considering locating here.”

To find out more about what’s going on at the UC Merced Venture Lab, including future events, visit the website and follow the lab on Twitter at @UCM_Venture_Lab