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Innovator Article

Sowing the Seeds of Economic Growth

President Obama has called on both the public and the private sectors to dramatically increase the prevalence and success of entrepreneurs across the country. The White House initiative, Startup America, was launched to celebrate, inspire and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship.

The initiative seeks to speed innovative product development, spur the formation of start-ups and create small businesses by supporting Proof of Concept Centers at universities and research consortiums, which are helping to jumpstart the production of emerging technologies and revolutionize manufacturing processes.

In September, UC Davis was one of six institutions nationwide, and the only one in California, to receive a $1 million award in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Admin-istration’s 2012 i6 Challenge Grant competition to create these test beds. Dean Steven C. Currall is principal investigator on the grant, which has established the Sustainable AgTech Innovation Center at UC Davis (see page 6).

In October, Currall was invited to Washington, D.C., for a series of forums, meetings and presentations that focused on the triple helix of university-industry-government networks that act as engines of innovation and regional and national economic growth.

At the U.S. Department of Commerce, Currall met with Acting Secretary of Commerce Dr. Rebecca Blank. He then attended The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University: Higher Education, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Focus, part of an ongoing effort by leaders of U.S. colleges and universities to foster a climate that promotes student and faculty innovation and entrepreneurship, actively supports university technology transfer, facilitates university-industry collaboration, and engages regional and local economic development efforts. Then it was on to the White House Business Council Meeting, followed by the American Economic Competitiveness Forum on University Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the White House South Court Auditorium.

At the White House Conference Center the next day, Currall attended the i6 Challenge Winners Conference, where he presented on the goals of the Sustainable AgTech Innovation Center, which leverages UC Davis’ global research leadership in agriculture, clean technology and sustainability. His talk, “Commercializing New Discoveries in Environmentally Sustainable Food/Agricultural Research,” outlined how the center, a partnership with the Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance, will provide the resources to accelerate entrepreneurial thinking among agricultural researchers and businesses, and develop a network of experts and financiers to support entrepreneurs and new ventures. The result, Currall says, will be greater job creation, new businesses, diversification of the regional economy, increased competitiveness of the region’s agriculture cluster, and improved environment stewardship, including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.