The State of California, through the University of California Office of Research and Innovation, has granted $1 million to the University of California, Irvine for the establishment of a broad, collaborative initiative to accelerate the growth of companies focused on climate goals.
The grant is part of a $15 million first phase of funding under the state's $100 million University of California Climate Action Innovation and Entrepreneurship Awards, distributed to the 10 UC campuses, UC-affiliated national laboratories and the UC division of Agriculture and Natural Resources to seed climate-focused research translation and innovation.
UCI will serve as the fiscal agent for a collaborative effort to establish RADiCal – the Resilience and Adaptation Development in California initiative – designed to bolster the strengths of UCI and its partners to move climate action projects from ideas to real-world applications.
Administered through UCI Beall Applied Innovation in partnership with the UCI Office of Research, RADiCal is the first in a series of effective ecosystem models designed to expand interdisciplinary collaboration and illuminate new pathways between campus knowledge development, research funding and innovation output. Bridging these areas will accelerate the growth of commercial enterprises, and in the case of RADiCal, those dedicated to green technologies and sustainability practices in Orange County and Southern California.
"UCI researchers from a variety of disciplines in physical sciences, engineering, biological sciences. public health, social sciences, humanities, arts, law, and business have been leaders in climate and environmental research for more than half a century," said Pramod Khargonekar, vice chancellor for research and RADiCal principal investigator. "The time has come to greatly accelerate our efforts at converting the research and knowledge of our experts into practical solutions that are urgently needed to help address climate resilience and adaptation problems in California."
Southern California is home to many companies working to address global climate change and is poised to do more, according to UCI's Chief Innovation Officer Errol Arkilic.
"A climate action translation hub to accelerate the commercialization of research ideas rapidly and effectively is needed to leverage our region's vast capacity and capability toward products and services which will help California and the world effectively address our most pressing climate-related issues, which is what the RADiCal initiative will accomplish," Arkilic said.
UCI is distinctively positioned to develop meaningful collaborations between private, non-profit, community, industry, regulatory and government agencies. Currently, over 30 UCI centers, institutes and labs are engaged in some aspect of climate action or sustainability research, with over $60 million in grant funding being managed specifically around climate-related projects.
UCI's status as a leading focal point for interdisciplinary research and learning will help guide enterprise development that values diverse backgrounds of employees and leaders, takes advantage of the latest technological advances, and offers the strongest results in climate change adaptation and resilience.
Three programming areas comprise RADiCal. The first uses collaborative workshops and events, combining subject matter experts and aligned campus and industry voices, to exchange climate action knowledge, breakthroughs and market intelligence. This will help the region's business ecosystem identify previously unrecognized translation opportunities and challenges, engage stakeholders, build trust between potential collaborators, leverage and build on the region's talented workforce, and open doors for underrepresented early career researchers.
According to Khargonekar, the workshops and event programming will focus on relevant areas. These include strengthening protections for climate vulnerable communities, bolstering public health and safety to protect against climate risks, building a climate-resilient economy, accelerating nature-based climate solutions, and strengthening the climate resilience of natural systems.
RADiCal's second programming area will provide early-stage commercialization funding to help accelerate promising climate solution projects towards market impact. The funding is designed to emulate UCI Beall Applied Innovation's Proof of Product grant program. Since 2015, PoP has deployed government and philanthropic funding to provide over $4 million in grants to 56 research translation projects, much of which has yielded new companies.
RADiCal also establishes the Orange County Climate Action Business Incubator, developed and operated by RevHub and Sustain SoCal, in partnership with UCI Beall Applied Innovation. RevHub is Orange County's first social enterprise incubator focusing on mission-first businesses with an emphasis in climate action and health equity. Sustain SoCal convenes industry and community to support clean technologies and sustainable economic development. RevHub will provide a match of $200,000 to increase the resources available for CABI's operation.