NEWS: OCTANe Unveils Accelerator for Local Nonprofits Involved in STEM; Facilitated by $150,000 in Grant Funding from Edwards Lifesciences…

In its continual effort to enhance and advance OC’s innovation ecosystem, OCTANe announced that it will launch an initiative to accelerate local nonprofits using its LaunchPad SBDC platform.

The announcement was made this week at OCTANe’s annual Medical Technology Innovation Forum in Newport Beach.

OCTANe is a multi-faceted organization in Aliso Viejo (with plans to move to the Great Park in Irvine) that currently includes a lifesciences and tech accelerator, among several other things. It recently announced plans for an incubator – to complement that accelerator. The incubator will serve early-stage startups. See related story here.

The significance of this new accelerator for nonprofits is that it will focus on organizations in the STEM industries (science, technology, engineering and math).

The accelerator to help OC nonprofits was made possible by a donation from Edwards Lifesciencs Foundation, OCTANe CEO Bill Carpou said at the conference this week. Edwards gave OCTANe $75,000 in grant funds in 2018 and 2019.

OCTANe began working on the accelerator earlier this year and the first cohort was launched in September.

These are the first five nonprofits it’s working with:

OC STEM Initiative

High School Inc.

Vital Link OC

Child Creativity Lab

STEM Goes Red For Women, a STEM initiative within the local American Heart Association chapter that offers a series of events and activities that connect junior high school girls with STEM mentors and provide opportunities to learn the latest trends in science, technology, engineering and math outside of the classroom.

These are all nonprofits that Edwards Lifseciences Foundation is already working with, Janelle Brunette, OCTANe’s CAO, told OCSN.

Within OCTANe

Within OCTANe, Brunette and Nicole Washington, OCTANe’s director of innovation and growth, are working on the accelerator for nonprofits. They said they are leveraging OCTANe’s LaunchPad SBDC accelerator in terms of using the metrics data and capital resources it has provided over the years.

Edwards Lifesciences Foundation’s Contribution

Edwards Lifesciences, with HQ in Irvine, is a global leader in the lifesciences industry. CEO Mike Mussallem was one of the original founders of OCTANe back in 2002.

He’s “an inspiration,” Carpou told OCSN.

“Edwards, through his leadership, continues to lead by example,” Carpou said. “They’ve exhibited a great culture – how entrepreneurs and companies can innovate and build better businesses. I find him inspirational and a true leader.”

Amanda Fowler, executive director of Edwards Lifesciences Foundation, told OCSN that the foundation is “investing in the core operations of local nonprofits to help them perform at a higher level, which is often overlooked in philanthropy.”

“We have seen the impactful results OCTANe has achieved with for-profit performance, and believe there’s a great opportunity to bring that same process and expertise to non-profits,” she said.

More About OC STEM Initiative

The OC STEM Initiative was originally created by the Samueli Foundation, which remains one of its primary funders. It’s currently housed in UCI’s Samueli School of Engineering.

It “has a very broad mission and serves multiple stakeholders,” Leyla Riley, OC STEM Initiative’s executive director, told OCSN.

“For this reason we saw OCTANe’s nonprofit accelerator as an opportunity to refine our message and revamp our communications strategy,” she said.

OC STEM has experienced tremendous growth since moving to the Samueli School of Engineering in 2016, she said.

“As we navigate the challenges and opportunities that accompany organizational change, we are grappling with how to maximize resources in order to build sustainable impact,” she said. “The nonprofit accelerator provided a new lens and introduced concepts I have never before articulated to an external audience such as ‘value proposition’ and ‘market potential.’ This intense exercise provided a new framework for telling our story and has provided tools for expanding our reach beyond traditional funding resources (i.e. foundations and grants). I feel confident that I could stand in front of a group of corporate executives and give a compelling pitch on why they should invest in OC STEM.”

More About STEM Goes Red For Women

As cardiovascular disease continues to be the No. 1 killer of women, ensuring more women are at the forefront of developing science, technology, engineering and math solutions has never been more imperative, according to a press release issued today.

Unfortunately, a troubling gender gap exists in STEM, from the lack of women pursuing STEM-related degrees to the number of women in STEM careers.

Out of every 100 female undergrads, only 12 graduate with a degree in STEM, and only three continue on to work in STEM fields.

Although women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs.

The American Heart Association, “a leading force for a world of longer, healthier lives,” is working to close these opportunity gaps through STEM Goes Red.

STEM Goes Red is nationally sponsored by CVS Health.

On Friday, STEM Goes Red OC held an event in Santa Ana, which was chaired by Katie Szyman, corporate VP and GM of Edwards Lifescieneces. She’s on the AHA OC chapter’s board of directors.


About The Author

Deirdre Newman is a long-time journalist, who's covered OC startups for a few years.

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