Center to teach engineers

UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering has received $10 million to jump-start a new center that will institutionalize the process of moving research out of the lab and into the marketplace.

The William J. von Liebig Foundation gave the money for the center, which will be called the William J. von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement.

“”[We are] trying to enhance that process to make it easier for faculty members looking for commercial applications of their research,”” said Abigail Barrow, the managing director for the center.

The center will guide research through the commercialization process and match investors with researchers. According to Barrow, advice on whether to form a new company or license the technology to existing companies will also be part of the program.

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The center aims to educate researchers on business concerns of which they might otherwise be unaware. The Jacobs School of Engineering will offer courses on entrepreneurism, with support from the von Liebig center, oriented toward scientists instead of business students.

“”UC San Diego is known worldwide for leadership in technology advancement through unique programs such as the Whitaker Institute of Biomedical Engineering,”” stated Robert Conn, dean of the Jacobs School. “”We believe the von Liebig Center will build on this great tradition and will serve as a national model of how research universities can more proactively ensure that discoveries are translated rapidly and effectively for the public good.””

Many UCSD faculty members have turned their research into profit. UCSD labs have spawned several biology, chemistry, communication, cognitive science and computer software companies, according to Barrow.

Qualcomm, a telecommunications company founded by former engineering professor Irwin Jacobs, and Praja, a multimedia imaging company founded by former professor Ramar Jain, are two examples of commercial application of scientific research.

The von Liebig center will have a special focus on biomedical research because that was von Liebig’s main interest, but it will not be limited to that field. Von Liebig, founder of Meadox Medicals Inc., was a medical device entrepreneur.

The center hopes to assist only the most promising and innovative research projects.

“”This should not be considered as an extension of industrial research labs,”” Barrow said. “”[We are] trying to augment original research so that if a faculty member is working on a particularly exciting piece of research . . . they can do some of the advancement of the technology while they are within the university instead of having to leave the university.””

To increase the involvement of undergraduate students, the center plans to work with Venture Four, a new student organization that focuses on entrepreneurial issues.

Joseph Bear is the acting executive director for the center, which will be housed in the new Powell-Focht Bioengineering Hall, which is set to open in 2002. The center will begin operating this fall.

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