UC Board of Regents committee talks ‘innovation’ through UC research investments

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At its meeting Tuesday, the UC Board of Regents Investments Committee heard updates from the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, or OCFO, regarding its “innovation” through investments in research and industry stemming from the UC system, as well as the system’s long-term investment returns.

In an expansive update on the UC system’s investments from the OCFO, Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Singh Bachher stated that the office’s managed assets have grown by nearly $5 billion — from $119 billion to $123.4 billion — in the past fiscal year. He added that since the global financial crisis, in the last 10 years, UC assets have grown by $70 billion which he cited as an example of “what the future could hold” and potential growth. Bachher also presented alongside entrepreneurial investment company Bow Capital co-founder Vivek Ranadivé and UC investments fellow Niket Desai. Together, they advocated in favor of the office’s continued investments in “entrepreneurial capital” at UC campuses.

“I do believe that in higher education in America, university innovation is absolutely going to be a new asset class opportunity,” Bachher said at the meeting. “I don’t want to call this ‘venture capital.’ … It is really entrepreneur capital, and we need to partner with the greatest and best entrepreneurs coming out of the UC.”

Desai introduced the presentation by stating that “research has become the new oil” and that by being a “first-class collaborative partner” through investment, the UC system can have a large impact in technological, financial, political and educational sectors. Desai added that the OCFO, in collaboration with Bow Capital, has invested in the House Fund at UC Berkeley.

Ranadivé said at the meeting that they are looking to invest in “trillion-dollar sectors” stemming from UC campuses and industry-disruptive companies. For example, he said their first investment in what is now the company GenEdit stemmed from an investment in a student in a UC Berkeley lab who is now credited with the invention of genome editing. Ranadivé added that they are also looking to invest in changing sectors that he predicts will continue to grow, such as transportation.

“We are now living in a time where the world’s largest bookseller has no book stores, where the world’s largest taxi company has no cars,” Ranadivé said at the meeting. “The raw materials of this age are data and imagination. The mine – the place where all of this exists – is the UC system.”

As the meeting drew to a close, Baccher addressed the committee and its chair Richard Sherman directly. He said that in order to make investments in campus innovation and entrepreneurial capital profitable, the system must make the investments long term. Baccher also said that while he cannot be certain of this investment opportunity’s outcomes, he feels that the UC system has enough capital to “take the risk.”

Rachel Barber is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @rachelbarber_.