The Union of Town and Gown

University of California, San Diego and San Diego


University of California, San Diego and San Diego
City population: 1,279,329
UCSD student population: 28,500
University employees: 26,000
Metro area small businesses: 62,103
Nearest major airport: San Diego International (3 miles)

San Diego has long been an innovation base for biotech and telecom. But the community realized a few years ago that it needed more business sense to bring all the ideas to market. "The community wanted UCSD to act as a mechanism to create companies and jobs," says Dean Robert Sullivan, who helped launch UCSD's Rady School of Management to that end six years ago. More than 40 percent of Rady's entering MBA students have advanced degrees. Their aim is to develop their ideas into workable companies. "Critics wondered if people with strong scientific backgrounds could be leaders," Sullivan says. "We've found they are successful individuals who can walk and chew gum at the same time." Last year, Rady launched technical assistance and consulting services, sending students and faculty to perform "stress tests" on local companies. "We're here because the community wanted us and insisted on it," Sullivan says. "We're a startup ourselves."

Spinoff city
Startups launched by UCSD faculty and alumni have generated $10.2 billion to the California economy each year, according to a joint study of the university and CBRE Consulting. Here's a sampling from the study of UCSD-bred companies based in San Diego County--right next door to their birthplace--that made $1 million or more in 2007:

Seashell Technology: $1 million
Chuao Chocolatier: $1.2 million
Softmax: $1.2 million
Digivision: $1.4 million
U.S. Spine & Sport: $1.4 million
Rusty Surfboards: $2.1 million
Surf Diva: $2.3 million
Linspire: $3 million
Ortiva Wireless: $3 million
Genoptix Medical Laboratory: $4.1 million
Caris & Co: $4.3 million
Viasat: $5.2 million
Canji: $5.6 million
Sangart: $7.3 million
Nereus Pharmaceuticals: $9.3 million
Senomyx: $12.2 million
Vical:: $14.7 million
Signal Pharmaceuticals: $41.8 million
American Specialty Health Networks: $128 million
Qualcomm: $8.9 billion

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Jason Daley lives and writes in Madison, Wisconsin. His work regularly appears in Popular Science, Outside and other magazines.

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This article was originally published in the October 2009 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Union of Town and Gown.

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