*Q&A: UCI Applied Innovation Executive Director Richard Sudek
OC Startups Now will periodically run Q&A’s with interesting entrepreneurs and key players in the OC startup/innovation ecosystem, in their own words. This Q&A features Richard Sudek, Ph.D., chief innovation officer and executive director at UCI Applied Innovation.
UCI Applied Innovation, located at the Cove (in UCI Research Park), is UCI’s innovation district and provides a central hub for entrepreneurs, inventors, startups, accelerators, angel investors, venture capitalists, mentors and legal experts.
Sudek is part of the effort to unite the SoCal innovation ecosystems of OC, Los Angeles and San Diego through the Alliance for SoCal Innovation. He’s also involved in the effort to bring more deal flow to OC.
OCSN: What are your thoughts on the current state of OC’s startup ecosystem?
Sudek: It’s innovative. It’s robust. And, to no one’s surprise, it’s growing. Orange County is in the center of the Southern California entrepreneurial ecosystem, easily accessible to Los Angeles’ and San Diego’s industries and resources. This improves the chances of success for startups in this area.
For its part, UCI Applied Innovation is helping to cultivate an “innovation district” in the heart of Orange County, to accelerate more startups, more scale-ups, and ultimately, a world-class entrepreneurial ecosystem.
OCSN: What do you think is needed to take OC’s startup ecosystem to the next level?
Sudek: Our goal, through UCI’s impactful contributions, is to elevate Orange County to be a globally-recognized leader in scalable innovation. OC has the main ingredients for a thriving ecosystem, including great universities and an educated workforce, a growing innovation culture and solid supporting organizations.
But to grow innovation, new markets and new industry segments, OC needs more of both capital and corporate support. UCI Applied Innovation has a role in facilitating connections in Orange County – and throughout Southern California – between investors, entrepreneurs, inventors, mentors and companies. This will help to create industries, jobs and economic advancement for the area.
OCSN: How is UCI Applied Innovation’s effort to get Silicon Valley capital to invest in startups at the Cove going?
Sudek: With NEA and Cybernaut, two globally-recognized and leading VC firms being located at the Cove, as well as locally-known Mark IV Capital, we hope they will continue to be magnets for other firms. By strategically having all groups co-exist, the Cove is a perfect place for intended meetings and “accidental collisions” that lead to world-changing breakthroughs. The next big idea to come out of UCI Applied Innovation is considerable. And Silicon Valley, along with other investors, recognizes the potential and opportunities.
OCSN: How can the Alliance for SoCal Innovation help OC’s startup ecosystem?
Sudek: The Alliance for SoCal Innovation and UCI Applied Innovation share very similar goals – to nurture and accelerate the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The area is perfect for startup growth. UC Irvine has produced three Nobel laureates, we are Orange County’s second-largest employer – contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy – and we have the fifth largest engineering & computer science program in the nation.
Working with the Alliance for SoCal Innovation, we can leverage the abundant resources throughout the region to help drive a bigger vision for the entrepreneurial ecosystem and scalable innovation.
OCSN: How will the recent formal agreement to collaborate with the Canadian government help OC’s startup ecosystem?
Sudek: One reason this collaboration became a reality is because the Canadian government recognizes that we serve as a portal to the Orange County and California markets and we are in the center of gravity in the OC ecosystem. This partnership moves us into the international spotlight, where we can appeal to larger audiences and, in turn, push out more discoveries that benefit humankind, stimulate economic growth and create new businesses.