CSUMB receives $180,000 to develop Institute for Innovation and Economic Development.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
About a year ago, a Clovis couple invented an espresso protein drink in their kitchen. With the help of the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Fresno State, the energy drink, CLICK, is now sold in Costco stores throughout California and in more than 50 countries worldwide.
CSU-Monterey Bay is in the early planning stages of developing an institute similar to the Lyles Center, devoted to turning creative ideas into reality and creating new jobs in Monterey County and the Central Coast. CSUMB and the Monterey County Business Council recently received an $180,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration to develop the Institute for Innovation and Economic Development. The institute will be the third located at a California university and funded by the EDA.
“WE WANT TO CREATE A PLACE WHERE SOMEONE CAN COLLECT DATA, RECEIVE TRAINING AND FIND A SITE THAT’S RIGHT FOR A NEW BUSINESS.”
Similar to the Marina Technology Cluster at the UC MBEST Center, an incubator that provides office space, free entrepreneur training and business plan development to companies that earn no more than $51,840 annually, the CSUMB institute aims to move innovative ideas from conception to implementation. Planners say it will bring together researchers, entrepreneurs, and the local business community to provide resources and training for people trying to start new businesses.
But according to CSUMB President Dianne Harrison, the relationship between the two will be complementary, not competitive.
“The only similarity is that each of the programs is there to assist start-up and expanding business entities in our region,” she says. “The institute will complement the Marina Technology Cluster because it will promote and nurture entrepreneurship and support innovation, thereby creating the need for incubator space, which is not offered in the institute. Also, there is no income cap for assistance at the institute. The availability of professors from various disciplines, along with students interested in different facets of business will create a vibrant, talented pool for vetting ideas, creating marketing plans that are scaled to a younger community and enhancing the viability of proposed products and business models. Being located on a university campus enables the institute to leverage faculty and student expertise with business and community needs.”
The program won’t be limited to CSUMB students and faculty. Technical and economic development expertise will be offered to folks already in the workforce.
The seeds for the institute were planted more than a year ago when the EDA’s Diane Church and Business Council President Mary Ann Leffel contacted Harrison. “We want to create the perfect one-stop shop,” Leffel says. “[The institute] will be a place where someone can collect data, receive training, find a site in the county that’s right for opening a new business and get a business license – these things usually take a lot of time.”
Another goal of the institute is to keep graduates in the area by offering training in professions needed in the community: “The institute will collect data on what jobs the community will need in the future,” Leffel says.
The $180,000 grant will cover the planning phases of the institute: determining the size and the contents of the facility and drawing up a proposal to contract a new building, tentatively located on the corner of General Jim Moore Boulevard and Divarty Street.
“We may request a 10,000 square-foot building, but costs and match requirements may necessitate scaling that back,” Harrison says.
This first phase also includes developing a budget, putting together a market analysis and gathering faculty and community input on needs. Harrison says she hopes to have the construction proposal submitted to the EDA by September, and the funding proposal soon after.
While CSUMB wants the EDA to cover all construction and infrastructure costs, the university may be responsible for raising 20 percent. In addition to the infrastructure funding requested, Harrison says, the feds will expect the institute to generate some revenue for services such as business plans, data analysis or consultations.
CSUMB has yet to name an official institute head. During the interim, however, Eric Y. Tao, Ph.D., director of the School of Information Technology and Communication Design, takes the helm, reporting to Harrison and Provost Kathy Cruz-Uribe.
There is no date yet for when the institute will open. Planners, however, can almost taste the next big energy drink – or whatever novel business comes out of its doors. “From a business standpoint,” Leffel says, “this is the most exciting thing to happen in Monterey County in the 27 years I’ve lived here.”