October 18-20 | Tucson, AZ

The Research Institution GAP Fund and Accelerator Program Summit

UC Santa Cruz researchers receive POC grants for early-stage technology innovations and climate action solutions

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October 18-20, 2023 / Tucson, AZ
The annual summit for research institution gap fund and accelerator programs, including proof of concept programs, startup accelerators, and university venture funds

The Story

Eight UC Santa Cruz research teams focusing on some of the most pressing issues of our time, such as cancer detection, data encryption, and climate change, received more than $350,000 in awards as part of this year’s Innovation Catalyst Grant program, administered by the university’s Innovation & Business Engagement Hub.

The Innovation Catalyst Grant program helps fill the longstanding gap in the innovation capital landscape between basic research funding and early-stage investment while also providing university researchers with the knowledge and tools necessary to navigate the pathway to innovation implementation and adoption. The program awards up to $50,000 to derisk and validate promising innovations, complemented by capacity-building training and mentorship from industry experts, investors, and experienced entrepreneurs.

“Proof-of-concept resources and programs are often necessary to advance compelling early-stage innovations on the path to implementation and adoption where they can ultimately generate societal impact,” said Ryan Sharp, assistant vice chancellor of Innovation & Business Engagement, who is overseeing the program. “We designed the Innovation Catalyst Grant program with this need in mind and have already seen promising results from the projects funded in the first year.  I was excited when we had the opportunity to expand the program this year to offer dedicated funding and supplemental programming for innovative climate action solutions that have the potential to address a wide array of the state’s most pressing challenges.”

As part of the program’s core track of recipients, Chris Vollmers, an associate professor of Biomolecular Engineering, received a grant to aid in the development of a low-cost and fast method for detecting cancer-relevant mutations.

Hamid Sadjadpour, a professor of electrical engineering, also received a core grant to support his work on a one-time pad encryption technology that can extend to cloud storage applications to safeguard sensitive data.

In addition to the core track recipients, the Innovation Catalyst Grant program funded a climate action solutions track this year for technology innovations that address some of California’s top climate challenges. This track was enabled by funding from the State of California provided to the UC system for climate action research and innovation to address critical needs across the state. The recipients include:

Michael W. Beck, the director of the Center for Coastal Climate Resiliencewill focus on advancing a new structure called a Tesla Reef. This structure combines concrete 3D-printing technology with a series of fixed-geometry passive check valves to protect our coastlines from climate change.

Rebecca Braslau, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, will use the funding for her innovative discovery of a way to upcycle post-consumer waste from PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic.

Richard (Ed) Green, a professor of biomolecular engineering, received a grant for his work on a simple and cost-effective way to gather environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding. Metabarcoding is an analysis of species abundance in an ecosystem by surveying DNA sequences in environmental samples like soil or water. Metabarcoding can be used to monitor and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Nobuhiko (Nobby) Kobayashi, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, will use the funding to assist with generating green hydrogen from seawater as a cost-effective form of renewable energy.

Yat Li, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, received a grant for his work on solar-assisted microbial photochemical systems for wastewater treatment.

The final climate action solutions track recipient, Scott Oliver, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, will focus on developing a new method for converting vegetable oils into high-value, carbon-neutral biodiesel.

“We are very excited to be working with the IBE Hub to develop novel approaches to help communities adapt to the impacts of climate change,” said Michael W. Beck, one of the climate track recipients. “By collaborating with partners in business and academia, we are able to advance solutions that can protect coastlines and have less impact on the rich biodiversity of coastal ecosystems.”


Full story: UC Santa Cruz researchers receive grants for early-stage technology innovations and climate action solutions

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