Photo: Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego

StartBlue Program Receives Funding to Boost Ocean-Focused Startups

Accelerator program set to launch Fall 2021 at UC San Diego thanks to a grant by the Economic Development Administration and philanthropic supporters
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Innovators and engineers working to solve the ocean’s greatest challenges may soon get a boost through a new program at UC San Diego.

StartBlue is a new ocean-focused accelerator co-led by the university’s Rady School of Management and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a world-renowned leader in earth, ocean, and marine science research and education. The StartBlue program supports science and engineering startups that are tackling ocean challenges and devising solutions that can be integrated into science, industry, investment, and government networks.

Set to launch in the fall of 2021, StartBlue is made possible thanks to the Economic Development Administration’s “Industry Challenge Award,” which is providing $328,542 through its Build to Scale program. This grant is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s overall investment of $35 million in 2020 to fuel high-growth entrepreneurship across America. The StartBlue program also received a local match of $328,542 donated by members of the Scripps Director’s Council and other philanthropic supporters.

A truly collaborative effort, StartBlue leverages the Rady School’s expertise in accelerators and launching startups and Scripps Oceanography’s leadership and expertise in blue technology. The program will be based at Scripps, which has extensive marine facilities.

“Scripps Oceanography is proud to collaborate with the Rady School on the StartBlue program, which provides the opportunity for scientists and engineers to get their ocean-focused startups and programs off the ground,” said Scripps Director Margaret Leinen. "The program expands upon our current support offerings for ocean innovators and entrepreneurs, and will in turn help grow the global Blue Economy. It’s a win-win for all involved.”

StartBlue is the sixth accelerator launched in eight years by the Rady School’s StartR program, which is renowned for graduating cutting-edge startups that positively impact the community. StartR was launched at Rady’s California Institute of Innovation and Development in 2013 following a request by a group of MBA students who were looking for ways to bring their “lab to market” capstone ideas into commercialization. Led by Rady School graduate and entrepreneur Lada Rasochova, the StartR program includes workshops, mentoring, one-on-one coaching, co-working space, and access to a network of StartR alumni.

The StartR program currently features several distinct tracks with programs focused on MBA students and alumni, underserved populations, veterans, social impact, and teen entrepreneurs. To date, 191 startups have graduated from the StartR programs, raising over $118 million with four exits.

In the past eight years, Scripps and Rady have worked together to support over 80 new environmental startups out of UC San Diego through entrepreneurship education and pitch competitions, including the Triton Innovation Challenge. StartBlue builds upon these previous collaborations with its focus on bringing creative programs and smart ideas into commercialization.

“We are excited to strengthen our partnership with Scripps Institution of Oceanography. StartBlue is an ideal collaboration and addition to our StartR accelerator portfolio of programs. The talent, resources and experience behind these programs that have cultivated successful startups across industries will offer a new channel for supporting ocean researchers and scientists in bringing their innovations to market,” said Dean Lisa Ordóñez from the Rady School of Management. “For the past eight years we have worked with Scripps Oceanography and the Jacobs School of Engineering on the Triton Innovation Challenge, which has supported companies such as BioLinq, Manta and Grolltex. StartBlue is an exciting opportunity to serve scientists throughout the San Diego community in bringing their Blue-Tech focused startups to life.”

The StartBlue program will start accepting applications from San Diego science and engineering early-stage startups tackling ocean challenges in the spring of 2021. Ten final teams will be selected to start the eight-month accelerator program in the fall of 2021. Teams will participate in weekly workshops, receive one-on-one mentoring from industry experts, and have facilitated access to potential partners, investment, and customers.

According to estimates by TMA BlueTech, San Diego’s Blue Economy includes more than 1,400 local companies, supports 46,000 jobs, and generates $14 billion in direct sales. StartBlue is expected to grow the region’s Blue Economy by facilitating the translation of ocean science and technology intellectual capital into new startups ready to leverage existing innovation and market resources.

Active participation of program partners will help integrate StartBlue into the pipeline of regional resources that support visibility, growth, and scale of ocean startups. StartBlue will be affiliated with non-profit Ocean Visions to connect new ocean startups to a national network of leading oceanographic institutions advancing research into scalable solutions. Other partners include the Port of San Diego and its Blue Economy Incubator, the U.S. Coast Guard Blue Tech Center of Expertise, the National Defense Industry Association, AIIM Partners, TMA BlueTech and its Blue Tech Incubator, California Sea Grant, the Brink Small Business Development Center, Alta Sea at the Port of Los Angeles, and the San Diego Military Advisory Council.

To learn more about StartBlue, please contact Karen Jensen at khjensen@ucsd.edu and Vanessa Scott at vscott@ucsd.edu.

About Scripps Oceanography

Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego is one of the world’s most important centers for global earth science research and education. In its second century of discovery, Scripps scientists work to understand and protect the planet, and investigate our oceans, Earth, and atmosphere to find solutions to our greatest environmental challenges. Scripps offers unparalleled education and training for the next generation of scientific and environmental leaders through its undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs. The institution also operates a fleet of four oceanographic research vessels, and is home to Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the public exploration center that welcomes 500,000 visitors each year.

About UC San Diego

At the University of California San Diego, we embrace a culture of exploration and experimentation. Established in 1960, UC San Diego has been shaped by exceptional scholars who aren’t afraid to look deeper, challenge expectations and redefine conventional wisdom. As one of the top 15 research universities in the world, we are driving innovation and change to advance society, propel economic growth and make our world a better place. Learn more at www.ucsd.edu.

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