In her column on Monday, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi wrote, “To continue making progress, we must also acknowledge that the University’s participation in economic development faces distinct challenges even in the best of times and the best of circumstances.”
Her clear focus here was somewhat different than we might imagine, as she writes, “Research breakthroughs can create tension in and among traditional intellectual communities. We must work to become more sophisticated and nimble when it comes to assigning precise ownership of intellectual property and in technology transfer.”
She continues, “We need to be more creative, more vigilant and more determined to rise to the challenge. Maintaining a vigorous and successful innovation ecosystem like the one America built after World War II, and again after Bayh-Dole, will require changes in how industry and academia interact. And the government must also continue to play a major role through its funding, policies and regulatory mechanisms.”
While the chancellor went that direction with her column, we can easily imagine a more locally focused look at the innovation ecosystem here in Davis. The question we should attempt to address as a community is: what should the Davis Innovation Ecosystem look like?
Back in November, Davis Chief Innovation Officer Rob White cited an article by David Lumb, who highlighted the work by Tyler Crowley, “who is widely recognized as the catalyst for startup communities in places like Los Angeles, London and now Stockholm” Mr. Lumb points out that “Crowley has devised a not-so-secret recipe for creating startup neighborhoods from scratch.”
“There are four things that need to be in place in order to build a startup scene. The first is a venue that is cheap and central, where meetups can take place. The second is a monthly event where all of the startups gather. The third is an established hashtag everyone in the community can use to share photos and event info. And finally, a coworking space that is open 24/7 so that when an outsider lands in the city, they have a place to go and meet tons of people in the scene.”
It is noteworthy that this week, Pollinate Davis will launch their coworking space and tomorrow night Jumpstart Davis will hold its first meetup at that location.
Davis has, of course, launched its innovation ecosystem on a number of fronts. Back in May 2014, Rob White noted the years of work that culminated in the need for innovation park space. Two proposals are moving forward, both in the west at the Davis Innovation Center, and in the east at the Mace Ranch Innovation Center.
One of the central questions that Davis residents will be asked to address in the next year, ultimately at the voting place,, is what the innovation culture will look in Davis. Will it be confined to a relatively small number of spaces that are currently available, plus some that are expected to open up with some infill development or will be looking at millions of square feet of space?
As some have argued, Davis is not simply looking at one innovation park or one physical space. But rather the city has proceeded along the lines of the work by Studio 30 to develop a “dispersed strategy.”
As the many contributors to the Studio 30 report indicated, “Studio 30’s research suggests that the City pursue a broad strategy to attract innovative businesses that offers a number of sites that are scalable and range in size so the community can accommodate an incubator, startups and expanding businesses. Some should be directly in contact with the University. This mix of small and large sites allows the city the flexibility to successfully attract, grow and retain innovation businesses. External sites have the potential to support the most jobs because of their size and ability to accommodate a wider variety of both size and type of businesses.”
However, a crucial finding is that “the current isolated and dispersed sites that are available and appropriately zoned are not adequate in terms of size, location, or configuration (and related constraints) to address the emerging market need of an Innovation Center.”
The study continues, “With available reasonably priced land and effective marketing to innovative high tech companies, Studio 30 estimates Davis could absorb up to 10 percent or around 100,000 square feet of the 1-1.5 million industrial/office square footage absorbed annually in the Sacramento region. Because of this Studio 30 estimates Davis needs at least 200 acres for business development and expansion over a 20 +/- year time horizon.”
They continue, “A combination of one ‘close in’ hub or incubator with one (or in some future time, two) larger, less constrained (and presumably less costly) edge site offers the right mix of University proximity and identity with the expansion capability to address job growth and rapid business expansion.”
The Studio 30 report has helped to identify the potential locations both in the west and the east that are now moving forward.
Finally, as we noted on Sunday and Chancellor Katehi reiterated on Monday, UC Davis has a bold vision for the future. It seems it would be in both sides best interest to collaborate. The city of Davis is looking at expanding its economic base while UC Davis is the region’s largest employer, responsible for $7 billion a year in economic activity and hoping to continue to expand.
The ideal partnership would be for Davis and UC Davis to work together in synergy. That would benefit the city by allowing it to take home more tax revenue, and it would benefit the university as it would ready available space to continue and increase its technology transfer.
However, if history shows itself to be true, UC Davis is not going to wait for the city to get in gear.
As we know, UC Davis is already considering Sacramento’s downtown railyard as a potential location for a third campus and a spot where the billion dollar world food center might be located.
Maybe the railyard is the best place for a billion dollar world food center, just as downtown Sacramento was perhaps the best location for the UC Davis Medical Center – perhaps not.
It would be preferable if the citizens of Davis would make these decisions rather than having the decisions decided outside the community.
—David M. Greenwald reporting