By Ralph J. Hexter
Since adoption of the Innovation Park Task Force recommendations in 2012, much has happened to inform ongoing consideration of how to expand and diversify the Davis economy. Let me briefly touch on several developments at UC Davis that speak directly to economic development in our community.
First, this past March the campus released its latest economic impact report demonstrating again that the size, scope and economic reach of our campus is greater than ever. With our campus in Davis and the Health System campus across the Yolo Causeway in Sacramento, the university now accounts for 72,000 jobs statewide and more than $8 billion of annual economic activity. The vast majority of that impact, of course, is in our own region, where UC Davis generates nearly $7 billion in annual economic activity and 65,000 jobs.
The Davis campus alone generates nearly $3 billion dollars in economic activity a year and 40,000 jobs for the Davis-Sacramento area. As was noted when the report went out in March, UC Davis, by any measure one chooses, pays big dividends to California and its taxpayers, with most of those benefits felt locally.
In our region, UC Davis continues to be the second largest employer after the state of California and the largest employer in Yolo County. In the Davis-Sacramento region, one job was created for every two jobs at the university.
Beyond these traditional multiplier impacts on the economy, UC Davis innovations and inventions have the potential to contribute to the local and regional economy by creating new businesses and entirely new industries as these breakthroughs are translated into commercial entities. To help this process come to fruition, UC Davis over the past four years has strategically invested in programs dedicated to accelerating commercialization of our researcher’s inventions.
These investments have included establishment of the Venture Catalyst program within the Office of Research, whose mission is to directly support campus entrepreneurs seeking to develop university technology into new, viable commercial ventures; creation of the “STAIR” Grant to help UC Davis technology move towards commercial application by funding translational research for which other financial support does not exist; development of the “Smart Toolkit for Accelerated Research Translation (START) Program to provide the ABCs (attorney, banking, and company formation assistance) to equip UC Davis entrepreneurs to launch and grow prosperous companies.
Additionally, Venture Catalyst collaborates closely with other internal stakeholders and resources such as InnovationAccess, which provides services that connect research to the marketplace, focusing on protecting and commercializing intellectual property and fostering entrepreneurship throughout the UC Davis community. Venture Catalyst also works with the campus Office of Corporate Relations and the Graduate School of Management’s Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Of particular note are the Institute’s entrepreneurship academies designed to provide a springboard for moving research out of the lab and into the world, and its Big Bang!Business Competion, which provides a forum for UC Davis and the broader community to collaborate, develop and test business visions and plans. BigBang! also offers mentorship, teambuilding education, financing, and networking for aspiring entrepreneurs.
These campus programs are closely tied to both Davis and Sacramento business, governmental and economic development leaders to highlight the development and technologies that will drive future regional job creation.
Examples include Davis Roots, a non-profit business accelerator launched to support start-ups in hopes of keeping them in Davis once they succeed, and the UC Davis-HM Clause Life Science Innovation Center. The latter has a shared goal of creating an environment that breeds innovation, fosters creativity and inspires synergy.
As you can see from some of the programs mentioned above, there is a great deal of activity on and around our campus when it comes to entrepreneurship and efforts to take some of our transformational research and have it pay off in the marketplace. What we have been striving for, as Chancellor Linda Katehi has pointed out many times, including in the columns of the Vanguard, is creation of an innovation ecosystem that can mirror some of the great success we’ve seen flowing out of research university campus communities in places like Austin, Texas and the Research Triangle Region in North Carolina, to name just two.
We expect to continue our aggressive efforts to help drive expansion and diversification of the region’s economy based on innovation and entrepreneurship from UC Davis leveraged by partnerships with local, regional, and national entrepreneurs and investors. And we look forward to participating in the conversation as the city of Davis considers its next steps.
Our contributions to the local, regional and state economy are enormous and I believe we are extremely well positioned to have an even bigger and more positive impact in the years ahead.
Ralph Hexter is the Acting Chancellor of UC Davis
Editor’s note: following the decision by Mace Ranch Innovation Center to put its pending project on hold, the Vanguard decided to re-start a community discussion on the future of economic development in Davis. As such, we are reaching out to a very diverse group of people and starting May 1 we are hoping to publish one op-ed a day on this subject. We are pleased to announce that so far we have over 40 commitments and counting. Beginning today, we will publish one article per day for the month of May into June. If you would like to add your voice – please submit your piece on the future of economic development in Davis (800 to 1000 words).
May 1: Robb Davis
May 2: Elaine Roberts Musser
May 3: Dan Carson
May 4: Matt Williams
May 6: Peter Bell
May 7: Bob Fung
May 9: Rob White
May 16: Alan Humason
May 17: Mike Hart
May 18: Judy Corbett
May 19: Mark Braly
May 20: Susan Rainier
May 21: Tia Will
May 22: Anya McCann
May 24: Bob Poppenga
May 27: Dushyant Pathak
May 30: Jim Gray