Fostering the Region’s Innovation Economy

October 31. 2013
by Robert S. Sullivan

UC San Diego has occupied a significant role in creating, nurturing and growing the life science and technology industries in the region. Serving as an educational institute, a research hub and an integrative community leader, the university has been instrumental in the formation of the innovation ecosystem in San Diego.

Critical to UC San Diego’s success has been the Rady School of Management. Founded in 2003, the Rady School has advanced the vitality of the regional economy through the development of new business leaders steeped in innovation. The Financial Times of London recently ranked the Rady School in the top 22 percent of worldwide MBA institutions in its very first formal rating. Germane to this commentary, the Rady School ranked seventh in entrepreneurship worldwide.

The Rady School has distinguished itself as a pioneer in a new educational business model demanded by the region’s scientific and technology communities. With its concentration in entrepreneurship, the Rady model has fostered rapid accomplishments within the innovation ecosystem through the close collaboration of students, faculty, alumni and community supporters.

A key factor affecting a school’s impact on a community or regional economy is how effectively the institution facilitates the integration of local entrepreneurs and cutting-edge curricula into new products, jobs and businesses. In just 10 short years, Rady students and alumni have launched nearly 60 companies that are seeding the innovation ecosystem in San Diego and beyond, as well as launching more than 100 new products or services within local and global organizations.

Likewise, the Rady School and its faculty have been innovative — through the development of curriculum and programs that have fostered the above, groundbreaking accomplishments. Three notable, entrepreneurial programs are the StartR Accelerator, Lab 2 Market and the Rady Venture Fund.

The StartR Accelerator is a robust feeder program that will populate existing incubators in San Diego. StartR is a free, six month-long program that provides startup teams with mentoring, workshops, seminars, consultation with Rady School faculty and industry experts, connections to funding sources and a conduit to the larger San Diego business community.

In Lab to Market, the signature course series of the Rady MBA program, fledgling entrepreneurs learn how to turn ideas into market opportunities. Students are taught how to identify scalable new ideas that fill a market need and that add social and economic value. This is the real value that L2M provides: an environment that allows for risk taking and failure — an important ingredient of any innovation curriculum.

The Rady Venture Fund was initiated to support the Rady School’s educational objectives in the areas of entrepreneurship, innovation and translation of discoveries into the marketplace. Students take a series of courses in new venture finance and venture capital management where they gain hands-on experience in conducting due diligence and making investment decisions. Recently, the Rady Venture Fund participated in a $16 million Series B raise in startup Savara Pharmaceuticals, which was made in conjunction with an investment by the Tech Coast Angels.

Another key success factor has been Rady’s ability to attract the finest researchers and faculty, each with a desire and aptitude to challenge the status quo and demonstrate strong intellectual curiosity, creativity and ambition. Published researchers, in particular, represent yet another venue for innovation and support of Rady’s “startup” character. Notably, the Rady School ranks 16th in faculty research within the United States and third within California.

Last but not least, the Rady School of Management continues to garner extraordinary community support, with more than $90 million received in fundraising to date. Key founding donors include Evelyn and Ernest Rady and The Rady Family Foundation, Betty and J. Robert Beyster, Roberta and Malin Burnham, Pauline and the late Stanley Foster, Joan and Irwin Jacobs, Carol and William Stensrud and the Wells Fargo Foundation. No institution of higher learning can thrive without this kind of benevolence.

Clearly, the Rady School has quickly and collaboratively become a pillar of the San Diego region’s innovation ecosystem. Our many successes in the first 10 years have placed the Rady School on a trajectory that will continue to achieve and serve as a crucible and mainstay in San Diego’s business ecosystem. I look forward to the next 10 years of innovation and the development of new initiatives, the launch of exciting new products and services, and the strengthening bond with the local science and technology community.

Robert S. Sullivan is the founding dean of the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego and holds the Stanley and Pauline Foster Endowed Chair at Rady.

*This article originally appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune.