UCSC launches Center for Entrepreneurship
The University of California, Santa Cruz has launched a new Center for
Entrepreneurship (C4E), which offers students across disciplines
comprehensive, hands-on experience in bringing innovations to market.
"Teaching entrepreneurship is like teaching medicine," said Dan Heller,
the center's executive director. "You can't just teach it in a
classroom. You have to apply theories in a real-world environment so
students can observe and understand the realities of today's
The center is working with various campus departments and
programs--including computer science, economics, psychology, and digital
arts and new media--to create courses that focus on entrepreneurship.
These courses will give students the opportunity to work with
experienced industry veterans to create pragmatic business models for
simulated startup companies. In some cases, the business models may be
based on intellectual property created by UCSC researchers or students.
The C4E is also working with faculty to identify promising ideas
emerging from campus research labs and educate faculty about the steps
involved in turning their innovations into marketable products.
"The UCSC faculty includes leading researchers in a broad range of
technological fields, including information technology, energy and
sustainability, and biomedicine," said Chancellor George Blumenthal.
"The Center for Entrepreneurship will help to increase the influence of
these researchers in the worlds of business and industry."
Campus research labs are a rich source of innovative ideas and
leading-edge technology. In a recent analysis of top North American
universities, UCSC ranked fourth (behind only Caltech, MIT, and
Princeton) in citation impact, a measure of research influence based on
the number of times published work is cited by academics. UCSC also
ranks ninth in federal research dollars per faculty member when compared
to members of the Association of American Universities without medical
One of the C4E's early efforts has been to expand the UCSC business plan
competition, which was started in 2009 by students with support from
community members, local government, industry representatives, and the
university. This year, more than 100 students are participating in the
C4E's Business Design Competition. On May 20, eight teams will compete
for the opportunity to receive a top award of $10,000. Among them are
two plans for nonprofit corporations with an emphasis on green and
social technologies, and two that are focused on clean energy.
The local community is enthusiastic about the new entrepreneurship
program at UC Santa Cruz, seeing it as a catalyst that will help
stimulate economic development in the region. "UCSC is the region's
largest economic engine, and capturing the talent, enthusiasm and
creativity of its students and faculty is key to regional prosperity,"
said Peter Koht, economic development coordinator for Santa Cruz. The
city has supported the student business plan competition since its
inception and partners with the campus on the Project for Innovation and
Entrepreneurship, an internship program that places engineers and
business majors into local startups.
The city also recently financed a study exploring the benefits of
fostering more entrepreneurship among UCSC students and graduates. The
study was conducted by an independent nonprofit technology incubator,
which is raising venture capital to fund startup companies in Santa
Cruz. The incubator, now known as the "Startup Lab," was established by
Heller in 2010 as a nonprofit corporation (then called C3E) that is
separate from the campus and the UCSC Center for Entrepreneurship.
Heller said his plan for the Startup Lab is to create new companies that
could license from the university promising technology developed in
campus labs and identified by C4E as having commercial potential.
The C4E is operating out of UCSC's Jack Baskin School of Engineering,
but is designed to serve students from all disciplines. According to
engineering dean Art Ramirez, the C4E's academic activities are designed
to give students practical experience in tackling the challenges of
"The C4E curriculum mirrors the realities of how multi-faceted
challenges are solved," Ramirez said. "Students both learn and
experience fundamental principles that are applicable to any career,
whether you're starting a business, shaping policy in government, or
working for a non-profit corporation."