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Campus Gets $2.2 Million From State to Expand Entrepreneurial Reach

January 18, 2017

UC Merced’s share of $22 million in state funds through Assembly Bill 2664 will help the campus fulfill some of its primary goals: transforming the region economically and providing people with greater opportunity.

Each of the 10 UC campuses is receiving $2.2 million in one-time funding from AB 2664, the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Expansion, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last fall.

A proposal put forth through the UC Merced Office of Business Development calls for expanding resources available to entrepreneurs across the region.

“Success of new businesses is heavily dependent upon connecting to networks,” Associate Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development Peter Schuerman said. “To increase the success rate of new job creators, our expansion program will continue to build partnerships in the region that deliver funding opportunities, mentorship, legal advice and space to grow.”

The multi-pronged plan calls for:

  • Significantly expanding the UC Merced Venture Lab, in downtown Merced, to include sites in Atwater and Modesto, making the program more accessible, expanding its network, fostering the development of new startup companies, and attracting new startups to the region;
  • Supporting innovators and the improving the program’s sustainability by launching a product development center to spark and develop innovations and advance ideas to the marketplace;
  • Establishing a proof-of-concept fund targeted at "graduating" innovations developed at UC Merced;
  • Growing Central Valley Ventures, a legal assistance network established in partnership with the UC Berkeley School of Law, to address the needs of entrepreneurs across the entire region, with a special focus on rural entrepreneurs; and
  • Extending the UC Davis Venture Catalyst and the Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s Entrepreneurship Academy and its mentor network southward, to give participants a firm grounding in entrepreneurial principles and access to a broader mentor network.

California’s Central Valley includes some of the poorest regions in the nation. In 2013, 20 percent of Central Valley families lived below the poverty line, as compared to 12.6 percent for all Californians. Merced’s experience has been typical of other Valley communities, with unemployment consistently exceeding the statewide average over the years.

Part of the problem has been the lack of a diverse economic base, which is where a UC campus can help.

Groundbreaking research is a hallmark of the venerable UC system. The UC generates five inventions each day and more patents than any other university in the country. UC graduate students found new startups every two weeks, and UC-affiliated companies employ more than 38,000 workers across a wide range of industries, adding more than $20 billion in value to the state economy.

“Our program complements this strength of the UC to support and develop innovation by connecting it to entrepreneurship,” Schuerman said. “Innovation makes a promise about the future, and entrepreneurship delivers on that promise. Our program is about liberating innovation so that we can deliver new jobs and a more diverse economy.”

The UC Merced campus has contributed $1.4 billion into the San Joaquin Valley economy to date, and more than $2.6 billion into the state’s economy. At UC Merced, researchers — from undergraduate students through faculty members — are encouraged to explore practical and even commercial applications of their work. Through the UC Merced Venture Lab, students, faculty members, staff, alumni and members of the broader community are developing a new generation of startups. AB 2664 funds will allow the program to continue to grow to meet their needs.

Assembly member Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, authored AB 2664 to help convert UC research into products that benefit society and help campuses execute long-term plans that play to their strengths and address local and regional needs.

“The possibilities these funds bring have injected a great sense of excitement and energy within each UC campus,” said Christine Gulbranson, UC’s senior vice president for research innovation and partnership. “The new infrastructure and programs to support student and faculty innovation and entrepreneurship made possible through Assemblywoman Irwin’s vision, the Legislature’s support, and the governor’s backing will pay educational and economic dividends to California for decades to come.”