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News Release

Regional Universities Selected by DOE to Help Bring Renewable Energy Technologies to the Market

Rosibel Ochoa, director of the UC San Diego von Liebig Center, is helping to lead regional efforts to accelerate the commercialization of renewable technologies via a $1 million U.S. Department of Energy grant.

San Diego, CA, September 17, 2010 -- San Diego university and industry leaders will work to accelerate the transfer of energy efficiency and renewable energy innovations from university laboratories into the marketplace under a new three-year, $1.05 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).  The UC San Diego William J. von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement at the Jacobs School of Engineering and the Rady School of Management in partnership with the San Diego State University will hold a series of Regional Energy Innovation Challenges, providing fellowships and extensive mentoring support for students and faculty working on the most promising technologies.  Innovator teams comprised of experienced advisors, faculty, science and engineering students and MBA students from both universities’ campuses will collaborate to develop and execute commercialization plans.  A virtual network will connect innovators, business students, entrepreneurs and sources of capital to each other and to other initiatives within the clean energy space on campus, in the region and worldwide.

The grant is part of a $5.3 million DOE program to enhance university-based innovation ecosystems around energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

“Many great clean energy technologies have been born in our nation’s research universities. Accelerating linkages between university research, investors and the business world is essential to moving these ideas to the marketplace,” said DOE Secretary Steven Chu. “The innovative clean energy startup companies supported by these ecosystems will advance American competitiveness and will help create the jobs of the future.”

The proposed program will leverage our collective experience and expertise in early-stage technology commercialization and make it available to the San Diego region to commercialize energy technologies.  This platform can be translated and adapted to the other convergence sectors that are currently emerging in San Diego,” said Rosibel Ochoa, principal investigator of the grant, and director of the von Liebig Center, one of the first proof of concept programs in the country whose mission is to inspire entrepreneurism and catalyze commercialization of UC San Diego inventions through grants, education and business mentoring. 

Ochoa said the new DOE grant builds on the successful San Diego CleanTech Innovation Challenge, which was held in both 2009 and 2010.  Partners on the challenge included the von Liebig Center, San Diego State University and the City of San Diego’s Cleantech Initiative.

Since its inception in 2001, the von Liebig Center has advised more than 290 projects and allocated close to $4 million in proof of concept grants and business advisory services to more than 70 projects. The Center’s activities have contributed to the license of six technologies and the creation of more than 26 startup companies.  In turn, those startups have attracted close to $100 million in subsequent capital from the private sector and created over 180 new jobs. The Center’s team of technology and business advisors mentors a broad range of projects in areas such as medical devices/diagnostics, software, and clean technologies.

“The von Liebig Center has been an important conduit for commercializing innovative technologies and for technology transfer in the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego,” said Frieder Seible, dean of the Jacobs School.  “This new grant will allow us to continue our leadership role in the discovery and development of renewable energy technologies and solutions.”

UCSD doe
Known as a living laboratory for sustainable education, research and campus operations, UC San Diego is one of the greenest universities in the nation. The UCSD von Liebig Center and Rady School of Management, along with San Diego State University, will continue that tradition through a $1 million contract from the Department of Energy to accelerate the commercialization of renewable technologies
At the Rady School of Management, the grant will fund the MBA-in-residence program. This program will award fellowships to MBA students who help engineers and scientists identify commercially viable technologies and develop commercialization plans to help them succeed. The program is part of several Rady School initiatives focused on bringing innovation to the marketplace including the school’s signature course series, Lab to Market, which teaches students how to launch ideas into viable businesses; the Rady Venture Fund, which challenges students to evaluate and invest in promising new companies; and a partnership with the incubator EvoNexus, which allows students to evaluate and assist technology startups.

“This DOE grant will allow MBA students to gain experience recognizing clean technologies and in turn, address environmental concerns,” said Rady School Dean Robert S. Sullivan. “Enriching our students’ ability to commercialize new technologies will advance our mission of preparing students to lead innovation-driven organizations.”

Lada Rasochova, who manages entrepreneurship programs including the Rady Venture Fund at the Rady School, is the co-principal investigator for the DOE grant program.

“MBA students play an important role in the development of this new program. Bringing business expertise into the commercialization process early is crucial to identify promising technologies and make them successful in the marketplace,” Rasochova said. “Rady MBAs are particularly well suited for these tasks because many have advanced degrees in science and engineering, they have worked in these fields, and they are developing the business acumen necessary to guide these new technologies.”

SDSU’s role in the new innovation ecosystem program will also be a critical one.   The university has established commercialization programs such as the Center for Commercialization of Advanced Technology sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense, and the Energy Innovations Small Grant Technology Transfer Program sponsored by the California Energy Commission.

“The ongoing collaboration with the von Liebig Center has given us an opportunity not only to leverage the technical innovations at both campuses, but also to pilot creative approaches to broadcast those innovations into wider and more valuable applications through commercialization efforts,” said John Crockett, director of Research Project Development at San Diego State University Research Foundation.  “The existing entrepreneurial infrastructure of the region is something we can really take advantage of to get university technologies into the commercial world with a relatively modest investment.”

The grant to UC San Diego and SDSU is one of five DOE-funded innovation ecosystem projects which will be led by universities or nonprofits based in five states, and include universities, businesses, government, research institutes, economic development organizations, accelerators, and national laboratories. The grant recipients were selected based on one or more of the following objectives:  nurturing and mentoring entrepreneurs; pursuing intellectual property protection for technological innovations; engaging the surrounding business and venture capital community; or integrating sustainable entrepreneurship and innovation across university schools and departments.




Media Contacts

Andrea Siedsma
Jacobs School of Engineering