Silicon Valley Pioneer Vivek Ranadivé to Fund UC Innovations

The UC system will seed the as-yet-unnamed fund with $250 million, while Ranadivé said he will contribute 5 percent of the fund.

by Nanette Asimov, San Francisco Chronicle / December 16, 2015 0

(TNS) -- University of California researchers are so prolific — inventing ways to use mushrooms for powering cell phone batteries or to breed seeds tailored for organic farming, for example — that they have outpaced the amount of capital available for turning their creativity into products for sale.

So the university announced Tuesday it has enlisted a celebrity entrepreneur from Silicon Valley, , to head a new investment fund so that researchers can access the cash they need to bring their ideas to market — and return the profits to UC.

Ranadivé, 58, brought Wall Street into the digital world in the 1980s, has founded software companies, and owns the Sacramento Kings basketball team. He’s also a former co-owner of the Golden State Warriors.

UC will seed the as-yet-unnamed fund with $250 million, while Ranadivé said he will contribute 5 percent of the fund.

“We have the ability to influence the California economy and address the world’s great problems,” UC President Janet Napolitano said of the brain power across the university’s 10 campuses. “What we have not had consistently is the ability to accelerate into the marketplace the ideas in our labs by our students and faculty. They’ve had to go out on their own to find capital, and I’d venture to say some have not succeeded.”

The new fund will create a “ready pipeline” for inventors in such fields as medicine, agriculture, energy and technology, Napolitano said.

It is also expected that profits from UC companies will create a pipeline of additional revenue for the monster-size pension system that UC has struggled to fully fund, and for other UC needs.

UC researchers already invent an average of five new products a day and have started about 800 companies selling everything from brain-training apps to otoscopes that clip onto a phone and let parents send a picture of a sick child’s inner ear to their doctor.

“UC is the feeding ground for a lot of (startups) even today,” said Ranadivé, who has two children who are UC graduates.

But UC researchers won’t be the only beneficiaries of the fund, which will “seek compelling opportunities outside of UC by leveraging my vast network,” Ranadivé said. “Our mission is to help grow companies that will help advance society and make the world a better place.”

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