University of California Creates Prime UC Contest For Campus Start-Ups

Prime UC Invites UC Startups to Compete for Chance at $300,000 in Award Money

Applications are due by September 25, 2015

Startup companies from the University of California are invited to compete for a total of $300,000 in award money during the first Prime UC competition, part of President Janet Napolitano’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative.

In what is hoped will be the first of several such competitions designed to help the most promising UC-associated startups obtain seed funding, Prime UC is collaborating with Johnson & Johnson Innovation, LLC to give one $150,000 award and three $50,000 awards to companies with early-stage innovations related to therapeutics, consumer health, medical devices and diagnostics.

Selected companies in the life sciences field – all with founders or other members from any of UC’s 10 campuses or three national labs – will compete in a semi-final pitching round after applying online. Twenty applicants will then be chosen to participate in the final round on December 2, 2015 at UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay campus.

“The University of California and its three national labs is a huge but underappreciated engine for creating startups that act as a hub of innovation and new jobs,” said Regis Kelly, senior advisor to the UC president on innovation and entrepreneurship. “This competition will draw attention to the University’s awesome productivity and contributions to California’s economic growth while at the same time channeling funding to creative entrepreneurs.”

“We’re priming entrepreneurs for success,” said Neena Kadaba, director of the Prime UC program and director of industry alliances at UC’s QB3 Institute. “Seed funding is scarce for the tremendous number of startups coming out of the University of California. We created Prime UC to introduce these young companies to the investment community. Even if finalists don’t win an award, they’ll get valuable exposure.”

Kadaba envisions Prime UC as an annual platform to identify promising UC startups and expects that in future years the focus will include fields other than life sciences with the final competition round alternating between southern and northern California.

To be eligible to enter this year’s Prime UC, a startup must be developing a life science technology, have been founded by a UC faculty member or staff, or be managed or founded by a UC student, postdoctoral fellow or alumni. In addition, companies should not have raised more than $1 million in private funding.

The university system last year unveiled UC Ventures, a $250 million venture capital fund dedicated to funding startups created by students and faculty, signaling a growing interest from the state’s revenue-strapped university system to cash in on companies created in dorm rooms and classrooms. The venture fund, one of the largest of its kind, is seeded with money from the university system’s $9 billion endowment, and signals the rise in student- and faculty-led startups not only at prestigious private institutions such as Stanford, but at public universities like UC campuses.


PHOTO: UCLA Daily Bruin