San Diego Business Journal UC San Diego was awarded nearly $1 million late last month to participate in the ‘Build to Scale’ initiative, a federal program promoting ‘inclusivity’ by encouraging tech-based entrepreneurship in underserved communities.
 
Fifty organizations from 26 states were awarded grants totaling $36.5 million. Recipients also may be able to leverage $40 million more in matching funds via the program’s private and public sector partners.

 
This year’s ‘Build to Scale’ grant recipients include nonprofits, state government agencies and entrepreneurship-focused organizations.

 
UC San Diego will get $929,000 to further develop its Talent Foundry Accelerator (TFA), which supports a wide range of local tech startup activity.  


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Dr. Paul Roben Associate Vice Chancellor  UCSD

According to Dr. Paul Roben, associate vice chancellor for Innovation and Commercialization at UC San Diego, TFA administrators will use the grant award over the next three years to serve as many as 90 individual entrepreneurs and startups from underserved communities in the San Diego area.

 
Extending the Innovation Axis


“We’re trying to extend San Diego’s axis of the innovation economy to a larger portion of our community here,” Dr. Roben said. “That’s what this grant is all about.”

 
“We’re very diverse here in southern California but not that inclusive,” Dr. Roben added. “We need to bring resources to underserved communities that resonate with those communities. There’s a lot of potential waiting to be unlocked.”

 
Dr. Roben oversees UCSD’s Division of Innovation and Commercialization, which is working to establish a “campus-wide innovation platform” -- and accelerate commercialization of UCSD-originated inventions.

 
“This university is really good at bringing together resources and driving the innovation economy,” Dr. Roben said. “This was nice timing for this grant.”

 
The “Build to Scale” grant program is administered annually by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA).  


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Gina M. Raimondo U.S. Secretary of Commerce

“The program strengthens entrepreneurial ecosystems across the country that are essential in the Biden Administration’s efforts to build back better,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “This work is critical in developing the innovation and entrepreneurship our country needs to build back better and increase American competitiveness on the global stage.”

 
“EDA is proud to support this year’s ‘Build to Scale’ grantees as they fuel regional innovation hubs throughout the country,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo. “Investing in scalable startups and creating access to capital will yield more economic opportunities and support the next generation of industry-leading companies.”

 
Castillo said the EDA investments will support aerospace, agtech, blue tech, bioscience, advanced manufacturing and health technology clusters in regions throughout the U.S.  


Spawning Hundreds of Startups


The FY21 Build to Scale program was comprised of two competitions -- the Venture Challenge and the Capital Challenge.

 
UCSD received its grant through the Venture Challenge, which seeks to leverage regional competitive strengths to accelerate innovation and job creation through high-growth tech entrepreneurship and by fostering inclusive access to proven entrepreneurship support models.

 
University officials say there are now over 760 UCSD-affiliated startups operating across the country and around the world, generating an estimated $16.5 billion in annual revenue.