A new University of California, Riverside-driven effort launching Wednesday will help turn Inland Empire entrepreneurs’ and innovators’ ideas into reality.
The Entrepreneurial Proof of Concept and Innovation Center, or Riverside EPIC, will be a launch pad for entrepreneurs and startup companies, providing resources for training, mentors and connections to investors and partners. The official kickoff is 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Riverside County Administration Center at 4080 Lemon St. in Riverside.
UC Riverside Associate Vice Chancellor for Technology Partnerships Rosibel Ochoa said EPIC will house four pillars of business development: education, training, resources and access to seed capital.
“By the time you’re finished, you have a company, a prototype, an investor deck, a team and something you can pitch to investors,” Ochoa said. “EPIC will do all of these things.”
EPIC is borne of feedback from the region’s economic development organizations and innovation centers, which called for greater resources for entrepreneurs. Funding comes from a combination of the UC Riverside Office of Research and Economic Development, contributions from regional organizations and entrepreneurs, and a portion of a $2.2 million state award to UC Riverside that was part of a University of California-wide measure signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 30 for incubator space, equipment, training, legal services and other basics.
While elements of EPIC have been in place at UC Riverside for some time, Ochoa said the new incarnation will add entrepreneurial classes, a broad-scale mentorship program, training, access to potential investors and funds for “proof-of-concept,” and resources for growth.
EPIC involves numerous community partnerships, and its programming and facilities will be made available to students, faculty and entrepreneurs outside of campus. Partners include the cities of Corona, Murrieta, Riverside, Temecula and Palm Desert, the Temecula Valley Entrepreneur Exchange, InSoCal Connect, the Murrieta Innovation Center and Excite.
Among the community-based programs will be a series of seminars and workshops throughout the year, on campus and through existing community partners.
“One of the key ways to grow a local economy is to grow local companies,” said Bruce Coleman, Murrieta’s director of economic development. “UC Riverside is the research university for this region, and we are extremely interested in working with UC Riverside to encourage new innovations that lead to technology enterprises.”
In the more immediate future, UC Riverside plans to create the Highlander Venture Capital Fund to provide seed and startup capital. Presently, UC Riverside is working with a venture firm out of Silicon Valley to raise the capital needed for the investments.
Ochoa said more than 25 opportunities have already been identified within the university. “We are confident that EPIC and its partners will uncover many additional leading-edge entrepreneurial ideas which can become a reality and create jobs within our region,” she said.
In announcing the September award, UC President Janet Napolitano said, “We are excited to harness the power of UC research and make an even bigger impact on the California economy and the public good.”
The UC system generates more patents than any other university in the United States, averaging five inventions a day. UC students found a new startup every two weeks, and UC-affiliated companies employ more than 38,000 workers, contributing more than $20 billion to the California economy.
At UC Riverside, more than 70 new inventions are generated by university faculty and researchers in areas including agriculture, biomedical, driverless vehicles, energy and the environment.