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Saturday, Sep 30, 2023

EPA Awards SDSU $10M

EDUCATION: Enviro Justice Center to Join Innovation District

It’s all systems go for San Diego State University’s developing innovation district at the school’s Mission Valley campus.

Leaders from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and school officials announced earlier this month that the SDSU Center for Community Energy and Environmental Justice will be among the cutting-edge Mission Valley Innovation District’s first tenants in about three years.

Noemi Emeric-Ford
Director, Southern California Field Office
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The federal government earmarked $10 million for the university’s CCEEJ and SDSU has committed $100,000 to support the initial launch of the center. SDSU’s is one of 17 centers nationwide being funded as a way to connect underserved communities with resources for energy and environmental justice.

“We are committed to ensuring the communities that most need these resources will be able to access them,” said Noemi Emeric-Ford, director of the Southern California Field Office for the EPA at a Sept. 5 press conference in National City.

Dr. Adela de la Torre

The CCEEJ will provide critical services to rural and remote tribal and Indigenous communities to help them tap into federal resources for projects that will help their communities build healthier environments and allow for better access to safe, reliable, clean energy.

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“Each of us… understands the core pillar of our social responsibility, that environmental justice is not simply an old concept,” said SDSU President Dr. Adela de la Torre. “It is essential for sustainable future.”

Unique Mix

The CCEJJ will be housed at the Innovation District, set to break ground next year with plans to start tenanting in 2026, says Dr. Hala Madanat, SDSU VP of research and innovation. Madanat is charged with stewarding the university’s expansive research enterprise, supporting the development of the Innovation District, and overseeing SDSU’s research advancement, research support services, technology transfer efforts and the SDSU Research Foundation, as well as the university’s start-up incubator, the Zahn Innovation Platform.

Dr. Hala Madanat
VP, Research & Innovation

With 1.6 million square feet of office, technology, laboratory and research space, the Innovation District will be designed with more than a million square feet of office, technology, research and laboratory space to facilitate collaborations between SDSU researchers, faculty and students with public and private partners at the site.

In March, LPC West was chosen to build the first phase – about 315,000 square feet of leading-edge facilities in three buildings in the northeast portion of the site area, and a parking structure.

Madanat said SDSU’s vision for the Innovation District includes six areas of focus: health and education innovation; climate resilience and sustainable energy; transportation, aerospace and security; cyber and digital tech; media and entertainment; and global futures and social justice innovation.

Initial partners coming to the Innovation District are the NavalHealth Research Center and Family Health Centers of San Diego. The number of companies that will join those entities is yet to be determined, but Madanat said there are interested businesses looking for spots of anywhere from 2,000 square feet and 25,000 SF.

“We really are looking at the multitudes of opportunities,” Madanat said. “And if we have a variety of groups in there, it makes more sense – so we have that ability to create innovation and opportunities for our students.”

Madanat said for nearly two years she has been traveling around the country seeing what types of innovative districts are in place at other universities, and that no other entities are doing what SDSU is.

“There is nothing anywhere else like we are creating in this region,” Madanat said. “Our mix of innovation that we’re trying is absolutely unique. This innovation district is being very intentional by having our faculty move in to collaborate directly with industry partners… It’s an innovative ecosystem that leverages the university, the region, our talents and our diverse student pipeline.”

 Startup Ecosystem Hub

The Innovation District could well be the startup ecosystem and entrepreneurship hub of the region. Madanat praised Connect, EvoNexus and Biocom, and said SDSU “want(s) them all to have a home in Mission Valley, a presence. We’re opening it up to other universities. Whoever wants to join us can join us in that space. Our vision is to bring companies to San Diego and keep them here. That’s a very important part for us.”

Local industries say they want and need a diverse work pipeline, Madanat said, noting that the presence of students where life science, health and technology hubs are located will fit right into those needs.

Madanat said that the Innovation District is expected to predominantly house life sciences – about 70%.

“It’s so needed in our region, it’s the fastest growing industry,” she said. “In San Diego, it looks like our life sciences are going to overtake Boston as the second largest (San Francisco is No. 1). It’s exciting.”

She said the Innovation District is also ideal for an advanced manufacturing hub, “for 3D printing and for all things you can think of in that space – while training students” and that a big partner in that space “like BioLabs or JLABS could be transformative,” and that eventually TechStars San Diego Powered by SDSU will expand into Mission Valley as well.

The Innovation District will be part of an overall mix on the site that includes the already-built Snapdragon Stadium; affordable and market-rate housing; community parks; restaurants, grocery stores and retail establishments; a childcare center; a gym; entertainment spots; a hotel and a conference center.

San Diego State University

FOUNDED: 1897 (as the San Diego Normal School)
PRESIDENT:  Adela de la Torre
BUSINESS: Education
WEBSITE: sdsu.edu
CONTACT:  (619) 594-5200
NOTABLE: The oldest higher education institution in San Diego with more than 400,000 alumni, including notable figures like  Former Federal Trade Commission  chair Timothy Muris,  Costco Cofounder Jim Sinegal  and Baseball Hall of Famer  Tony Gwynn.


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