A new innovation hub providing technical and financial support to startups will be coming to campus after a recent partnership between UC institutes and Enel, a multinational power company.
Enel has partnered with the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society and the Banatao Institute in hopes of giving startups a faster path to collaborating with bigger industries. Enel will provide the CITRIS Foundry with $350,000 over two years, allowing for the startup accelerator to be more self-sufficient in the future, according to Costas Spanos, director of CITRIS and the Banatao Institute.
Spanos said in an email that he considers this partnership a “win-win-win” for the Foundry, Enel, and campus startup companies.
“To the CITRIS Foundry, it means more funds,” Spanos added in the email. “To start up companies in the Foundry, it means just another path to commercialization … To ENEL, it means close proximity to this exciting cohort of young companies, and an opportunity to forge mutually beneficial partnerships with them.”
The CITRIS Foundry has been providing early-stage startups with training, networking and coaching for the last four years. It mostly focuses on “deep technology companies,” or companies whose main competitive advantage is technological know-how. Spanos said in an email that these startups tend to mostly come out of UC Berkeley.
Henry Chesbrough, an adjunct professor at the Haas School of Business and executive director of the Center for Open Innovation, said prior to this deal, Enel used to work on many small projects with hundreds of universities, which reduced its efficiency. Now, Enel has prioritized and selected 10 universities around the world, including UC Berkeley, for strategic partnership.
The innovation hub will increase the chances of startup companies fulfilling the needs of bigger industries, Chesbrough said.
In this partnership, the CITRIS Foundry will act as an intermediary between Enel and campus startups. The partnership will allow Enel to pursue joint development projects and will give Foundry startups a faster path to customers and the market, according to Spanos.
Chesbrough said that UC Berkeley has a healthy startup environment. In addition to the new innovation hub, Skydeck, an incubator in Downtown Berkeley, is another resource available to startups. Startup competitions also happen on a regular basis, according to Spanos, and the Haas School of Business offers applied innovation courses that focus on hands-on projects.
“We now have a new resource that will make the CITRIS Foundry more effective in transforming some of the most exciting technology developed at Cal and the rest of the UC (into) positive societal impact,” Spanos said in an email.