The University of California, Davis, and Area 52, a recently formed nonprofit organization, have entered into an agreement to collaborate on a new technology business incubator for the Davis-Sacramento region. Area 52’s incubator will be the second off-campus member of the university’s Distributed Research Incubation and Venture Engine, or DRIVE, Network.
The shared goal of UC Davis and Area 52 is to create a workspace that provides the necessary resources for young companies looking to transform an idea into a product, especially in the areas of medical devices, agricultural technology, alternative energy, robotics and aerospace. The incubator’s resources include access to advanced manufacturing technologies and tools that are essential for those areas.
Area 52 is being developed and managed by Tim Keller, a UC Davis alumnus and first-prize winner in the university’s 2008 Big Bang! Business Competition. Keller founded VinPerfect Inc. in 2008 based on his invention, the SmartCap, which delivers precise oxygen control for wine bottles. Familiar with the process of turning a promising idea for a new product into a successful business, Keller is looking to create a resource to help others like him.
“Developing a tangible product is so much harder than developing a piece of software, because the costs of development are so high and because it is near impossible to find funding to create a product until you have built it,” Keller said. “What we are developing is something unique that allows manufacturing companies to get to the investable stage much sooner, and for less money. Partnering with UC Davis will allow us to develop a long-term, sustainable and highly innovative manufacturing sector here in Northern California.”
Area 52 will be in an existing building at 1222 Research Park Drive, Davis, within biking and walking distance of the UC Davis campus. Construction is scheduled to begin in March. The 36,000-square-foot building will have 20 offices, two wet labs, a fully equipped machine shop, composites shop, computer lab and two conference rooms, and eventually a gym and a café area for events and classes.
The building is owned by Sierra Energy, a waste gasification company also founded out of UC Davis’ Big Bang! Business Competition. The renewable energy headquarters is investing more than $1 million in renovations for the facility and will occupy a portion of the building separate from the incubator space.
Mike Hart, chief executive officer of Sierra Energy, said, “We have seen an opportunity to make a real difference in the region’s economy and we are taking it. People will be building new things and will have everything they need to turn those ideas into companies that can stay here in our community for the long term.”
Area 52 plans to open its doors later this year, offering economical options for university and local entrepreneurs to rent office/lab space or purchase memberships to access the workshop space. Keller also expects to offer programs to students wanting to learn and develop high-tech skills.
”We’re excited at the potential our collaboration with Area 52 and Sierra Energy will afford for UC Davis and regional startups to access high-quality engineering technology and medtech business incubation facilities and resources so close to campus,“ said Dushyant Pathak, associate vice chancellor of Technology Management and Corporate Relations at UC Davis. “Once in full swing, this facility with its advanced manufacturing and engineering tools, will complement the UC Davis-HM.CLAUSE Life Science Innovation Center which provides incubation facilities for university-affiliated startups in the biopharmaceutical, diagnostics, ag tech and related fields.”
Managed by the Venture Catalyst unit within the UC Davis Office of Research, the DRIVE Network provides UC Davis-affiliated startups with access to affordable, mixed office/lab business incubation spaces in close proximity to campus. Each university-based company accepted into the DRIVE Network has access to support resources offered by Venture Catalyst. This includes a suite of services provided through the Smart Toolkit for Accelerated Research Translation, or START, Program, designed to equip UC Davis entrepreneurs with the tools they need to form and grow successful companies.