A Venture Gained


And the winner is . . .

A challenge that provides seed support for “the next big thing” is looming large at UC San Diego. 

Networking opportunities, bringing together scientists and engineers with entrepreneurs and personalized mentoring by experienced businesspersons, is at the heart of the TriNet Challenge, a novel collaboration in its third year among UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Rady School of Management, and the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center at the Jacobs School of Engineering.

The goal of the Triton Innovation Network (TriNet) Challenge is to promote innovation and commercialization within UC San Diego and to provide entrepreneurially minded scientists and engineers with the opportunity to develop and advance their creative technology's commercialization plan while providing an avenue for potential funding.

“The spirit of collaboration within this campus is vital to the core of UC San Diego’s mission,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “This joint venture among three of our prominent schools highlights the creative entrepreneurial drive that comes from our dedicated students and researchers seeking to make the world a better place through innovation and talent.”

The TriNet Challenge is sponsored by the Scripps Foundation for Science and the Environment, founded in 2008 by Bill Scripps, longtime advisor and supporter of UC San Diego and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

“I love the great ideas coming out of this campus,” said Scripps at the event.  “The brilliant ideas are just overwhelming and the intellect of these kids is remarkable. I love to see it on display.” 

At stake was $11,000 in prize money.

The third year of competition to get emerging ideas into practical application kicked off at the Rady School’s Wells Fargo Hall on April 2 with opportunities for early career and established scientists to mix it up with local business leaders. Competitors pitched their ideas to a panel of judges made up of San Diego high-profile entrepreneurs and investors.  

An initial field of 27 entries was whittled down through an early phase of judging to a competitive field of nine finalists: four in the category of Technology Venture and five in Social Entrepreneurship.

The competition rolled into a night of lively professional pitching of new ideas ranging from novel paper recycling systems to regenerative wound healing technology. Also presented were innovative nanotechnology systems and citizen science efforts to document king tides (the highest tides of the year) and recreational fishing. Education innovations to inspire the next generation of scientists through interactive science video games and novel algae art curricula topped off the evening competition.

Technology Venture finalists were:

• GrollTex - Aliaksandr Zaretski
• MANTA - Dariusz Stramski
• Illuminera - Alex Abdel Alim
• SymbioO2  - Anil Sadarangani

The Technology Venture prize of $6,000, awarded by the judging panel, went to SymbiO2’s Anil Sadarangani, an MBA student at the Rady School of Management, for a new approach to the development of photosynthetic scaffold technology to aid in the wound healing process. His team was rewarded for their safe, easy, cost-effective, and environmentally sound design for novel micro algae-based wound care.   

Second place of $3,000 was awarded to Illuminera for a novel paper recycling technology that allows the reuse of existing paper.

Scripps Professor Dariusz Stramski was awarded third place of $1,500 for MANTA, an innovative technology for accurate counting and sizing of nanoparticles, with important applications in ecology, environmental health and safety, human health, and various industrial sectors in which nanoparticles are used.  

“The use of nanoparticles, tiny particles that are smaller than one micrometer, is widespread and growing rapidly,” said Stramski. “However, the presently available techniques for characterizing nanoparticle sizes and concentrations suffer from artifacts, are inaccurate, and tedious. Our team developed a new instrument called MANTA that enables rapid, automated, and accurate measurements of nanoparticles, which remove artifacts of other techniques.”

The innovative technology of MANTA is the result of dedicated teamwork between Stramski, Monette Karr, Rick Reynolds, and Jan Tatarkiewicz, who are all members of Stramski's Ocean Optics Research Lab at Scripps.

“MANTA was developed under the National Science Foundation’s Major Research Instrumentation program with substantial financial support from Scripps Institution of Oceanography,” acknowledged Stramski.

He added, “The TriNet Challenge event provided a unique opportunity to interact with business advisors from UC San Diego’s von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center and students from UCSD Rady School of Management and learn about the ways to transition knowledge and information about innovative technology from the academic to the business-oriented environment.”

The finalists in the Social Entrepreneurship category were all from UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a world leader in innovation in oceans, earth, and atmospheric sciences. 

• Catch Reporter - Brice Semmens
• King Tides - Dana Kochnower 
• Get in the Game - Debi Kilb
• Algae Press - Dominique Barnes
• Below the Surface - James Leichter 

The Social Entrepreneurship prize, selected by audience vote for presentation and concept, was awarded to Debi Kilb, project scientist in the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at Scripps Oceanography. Her award-winning presentation “Get in the Game” stressed video games as an effective and attractive learning tool for science education.

“Kids would rather play video games than just about anything else,” said Kilb.” So our team focused our educational outreach efforts to engage students in science using video games.” 

Originally developed to appeal to 8-12-year-old students, the concept will now expand teaching through video games to college-age learners in new and innovative ways. Uses will include classroom learning, homework, and in field guides.  

Kilb acknowledged the TriNet Challenge as an example of the positive results from dedicated teamwork.  Her collaborators, Scripps programmers nower and Alan Yang, were instrumental in the development of the winning concepts.

“Scripps Oceanography provides an open culture to be innovative and creative and to explore the world of learning without barriers,” Kilb added. “This event allowed me not only to connect with people and organizations that I otherwise would never cross paths with, but also gave me the opportunity to join a team of inventive partners and pursue new education endeavor without boundaries.”

“The work at Scripps Institution of Oceanography is cutting-edge and just keeps getting better,” added sponsor Bill Scripps.  “And I’m proud to be involved.”

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-- Cindy Clark

Related Image Gallery: TriNet Challenge

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