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Office of Business Development


UC Merced Innovation and Entrepreneurship Expansion Program

The UC Merced Innovation and Entrepreneurship Expansion Program is made possible through the funding from Assembly Bill 2664.

This bill requires the University of California to make one-time expenditures for activities to expand or accelerate economic development in the state in ways that are aligned with other efforts to support innovation and entrepreneurship. The bill identifies a specific funding source in the Budget Act of 2016 appropriated for that purpose and allocates $2.2 million under that appropriation to each of 10 campuses of the University of California. Read more here.

UC Merced's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Expansion Strategy

We find ourselves at a unique time in history. Universities are embracing the mission of economic development, thinking like investors and serving the needs of a generation of students who have an unprecedented interest in entrepreneurship. In seizing this moment, our goal is to meet the challenges of economic growth and diversity that confront us in California and beyond by unleashing an army of entrepreneurs.

UC Merced was launched in the San Joaquin Valley (SJV) to meet the needs of underserved students and to promote regional economic development in an area that is mostly rural. Promoting inclusive entrepreneurship that is connected to the education and innovation engine of UC Merced is a key strategy in achieving both of these objectives.

UC Merced leads the UC system in the percentage of students from underrepresented minority groups, low-income families and students whose parents did not attend college. The student body is comprised of approximately equal numbers of men and women. UC Merced is dedicated to helping these individuals achieve their potential. In today's world, that means in addition to helping them get jobs and make decisions about graduate school, we must also guide them in creating their own opportunities.

The growing innovative potential of this student community - and the broader regional one - must be unlocked. The strategy for tapping this potential is to (1) improve entrepreneurial network efficiency by developing nodes and new connections and (2) deliver tools and resources to entrepreneurs that allow them to unlock these networks and accelerate new enterprise.

This will be achieved through a significant expansion of the existing UC Merced Venture Lab program to include new sites in Atwater and Modesto. This will make the program more accessible, catalyze the growth of the network, and forge new connections with innovation and entrepreneurship programs at Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

To support innovators and the sustainability of the program, a product development center will be launched. The facility will be designed to provide tools to spark and develop innovations, advance ideas to the marketplace and generate income to sustain the program.

A proof of concept fund, targeted at "graduating" innovations from UC Merced, will be established with the goal of launching companies that can leverage capital markets and federal small business grant opportunities.

Central Valley Ventures, a legal assistance network established in partnership with the UC Berkeley School of Law, will be expanded by leveraging the Central Valley legal community to address the needs of entrepreneurs across the entire region, with a special focus on rural entrepreneurs.

And finally, in partnership with UC Davis Venture Catalyst and its Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, their Entrepreneurship Academy and its mentor network will be extended southwards into the SJV, leveraging the institute's 10-year track record of success to give participants a firm grounding in entrepreneurial principles as well as access to a broader mentor network.

Collectively, these programs are designed to engage not only entrepreneurs, but also those who are willing to help them. Our experience has shown that there are mentors, innovators, investors, service providers and customers who all want to see entrepreneurship thrive. Through the design of this expansion, we will foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship across the region.

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