UC Merced’s latest foray into the community, the Venture Lab, officially opens today, 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.”
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 an invitation-only reception for the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development Innovation Series, from 3:30-4:30 p.m. at Gateway Gardens, 560 W. 18th St., followed by the Innovation speaking event that is open to all.
From 5-7 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 four 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:
- Small Business Development Center Director Diane Howerton, speaking about iHub;
- Alumnus Augustin Roldan, speaking about his Venture Lab project called Sweep;
- Graduate student Michael Sanfilippo speaking about his project called CatVax;
- Student Daniel Freitas, presenting his project called Blox; and
- Alumnus Michael Urner speaking about his project, St. Vincent’s Solutions
People who plan to attend are asked to RSVP to Peggy Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.