CHANCELL-ING: Education, Innovation Key to Economic Growth

Woman in lab coat works with large coffee roaster
Ph.D. student Laudia Anokye-Bempah, M.S. ’22, is working with experts at the UC Davis Coffee Center to create the industry’s first standardized coffee roasting chart. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

One aspect of my role leading a world-class university is paying attention to the tangible contributions UC Davis provides to our local and state economies and to the livelihoods of so many. I’m pleased to say that together with our campus community and partners, UC Davis is having a measurable, positive impact on our state and regional economy, as pointed out in a UC Davis report that was released in November.

Blue graphic of Chancellor Gary S. May with text: Gary May Chancell-ing. A town-gown newspaper column.

The findings, which cover the year 2019, were shared in an annual meeting between UC Davis, the city of Davis and Yolo County. Those findings showed clearly how UC Davis is a major economic driver for California and especially our region. While this may not be a surprise to many of us, the data that confirms our strength and impact is worth sharing as much as we can. 

Supporting jobs here, around the state

For the region immediately in and around Davis, the university’s spending of $3.3 billion and 25,100 employees generated $6.8 billion in economic activity and 46,300 jobs. For the city of Davis, direct expenditures of $889 million generated total economic impact of $988 million. It found that more than half of the economic activity attributable to the university benefited our local seven-county region.

Our statewide economic impact is just as impressive. UC Davis generated $12.56 billion in statewide economic activity and supported 68,900 jobs in 2019. This was an increase of $4 billion in economic impact from our last report, which was conducted from 2013 to 2014. The analysis also found that every dollar UC Davis spent in California generated an additional $1.10 of economic activity in the state. For every UC Davis job, the university’s economic activity led to the creation of another job in California.

But this is about much more than numbers. We’re showing how education and innovation are key to our economic growth, both in the city and beyond. 

Bringing research to the market

As we look ahead, we will keep moving forward in translating our research into commercial goods and services. Our entrepreneurial culture at UC Davis includes more than 1,500 active patents. Last year alone, UC Davis helped launch 13 startups, made 132 invention disclosures and completed 50 licensing agreements. Overall, these startups focus on critical technologies related to Alzheimer’s disease treatments, cancer drugs and a host of innovations related to health, food and agriculture. And these innovations have the power to change the way we live for generations to come.   

The report concludes that the key to local competitiveness is to foster the success of smaller startup companies. That success would be a beacon to attract other startups and lead to a large and sustainable number of biotech and life sciences firms.

UC Davis is following this path now, by preparing a skilled workforce and providing facilities to support our startup culture. We are advancing entrepreneurship through our Venture Catalyst program, which helps enable the success of startups based on UC Davis technologies through a variety of programs. For instance, The Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which is housed in our Graduate School of Management, is a hub for researchers who are seeking viable pathways to commercializing their ideas. Aggie Square, the innovation hub we’re developing on the Sacramento campus, is another example of how we’re partnering for innovation and growth.

These findings are at the heart of what it means to live in “California’s College Town.” We’re home to one of the nation’s top universities for the social mobility we provide for students. We live in a city that thrives on intellect and ingenuity. And the innovations being developed right here are helping us build a brighter tomorrow, all with job opportunities and substantial benefits to our economy.

As these reports make clear, an affiliation with UC Davis is priceless.

Chancellor Gary S. May’s monthly column is published in The Davis Enterprise and Dateline UC Davis.

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