Daily Business Report-Dec. 18, 2017
Scripps MAS student and California Seaweed Co. founder Brant Chlebowski pitches his project. (Photo: Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego)
Triton Innovation Challenge
Awards Forward-Thinking Scientists
By Brittany Hook | UC San Diego
Imagine a time in the future when the roads are meeting all electrical needs with embedded solar cells, important coastal data is collected with a special surfboard fin, and trees in the forest are equipped with inexpensive technology that can detect small fires before they spread.
Thanks to teams of scientists, innovators, and students at UC San Diego, these ideas are not so far fetched, and some already have been set into motion. Qualifying teams recently presented ahandful of inventive projects at the sixth annual Triton Innovation Challenge, a business competition that spotlights commercially promising, environmentally focused technologies generated by UC San Diego’s finest minds. Funded by the William and Kathryn Scripps Family Foundation, the Triton Innovation Challenge is a partnership among UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management, Jacobs School of Engineering (JSOE), and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
This year’s competition received 27 total applications which were then pared down to ten semifinalists by a panel of judges. Half of the semifinalists were teams based at Scripps Oceanography, a record number.
Scripps semifinalists participated in the new Scripps Innovation Bootcamp, a three-week pitch and business development course taught at Scripps by staff from the Jacobs School of Engineering Institute of the Global Entrepreneur. The bootcamp experience provided the Scripps teams with mentorship from experienced business professionals and entrepreneurs who helped each team refine their product, market, and business concepts, and master the ever important presentation pitch.
Five teams made it through the mid-November semifinals to present in the Triton Innovation Challenge finals, held Nov. 28 at the Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society and the Environment.
The final five teams were:
BIC LIDAR – Babak Bahari (JSOE)
California Seaweed Co. – Brant Chlebowski (Scripps)
E-Way – Alejandro Conde Perez (Rady) and Wei Huang (JSOE)
Smartfin – Phil Bresnahan (Scripps)
The Green Stop – Rachel Labbé-Bellas (Scripps) and Juliana Brasil (Rady)
With cash prizes totaling $20,000, the stakes were high for teams to successfully wow judges during a ten-minute window in front of a packed house. Presenters also engaged in a brief Q&A with the judges following their presentation.
While the results were being tallied, the audience heard a presentation from Aliaksandr Zaretski, founder of GrollTex, a Triton Innovation Challenge alum and company specializing in breakthrough technology for the mass production of graphene. Then the much anticipated awards were announced by Scripps Director Margaret Leinen and Robert Sullivan, dean of the Rady School.
The first place winner and $10,000 went to BIC LIDAR, a startup that emerged from the UC San Diego electrical and computer engineering department. BIC LIDAR is working on compact, relatively inexpensive solid state lasers for LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) applications. This LIDAR system has possible applications for wildfire detection in forestry. However, autonomous vehicles are among applications of this technology that have large potential markets.
“We demonstrated the new laser based on completely new physics that enables us to surpass a fundamental technological barrier in LIDAR technology,” said presenter Babak Bahari, a fourth-year graduate student at the electrical and computer engineering department at JSOE. “With this laser, we can remove all mechanical components, shrink the size of LIDAR systems to the nanoscale, and increase the speed at least six orders of magnitude.”
Second place and $5,000 went to E-Way, a collaboration among students at Rady and JSOE to develop technology to safely electrify roads using solar panels. The E-Way team has developed a modular, high strength, interchangeable and interlocking housing for the solar cell, which is organic, low cost, and environmentally efficient.
Scripps-led venture California Seaweed Co. took third place in the competition and $2,500. California Seaweed Co. focuses on growing sustainable seaweed aquaculture for the culinary market. Founder Brant Chlebowski, a Scripps MAS student, said the company is driven by the vision to supply live native Californian seaweeds to the United States culinary market, with a strong emphasis on the sustainability and nutritional content.
The Audience Award of $2,500, calculated via a text-to-vote mechanism, went to The Green Stop, a solar-powered, filtered water refill station that promotes a sustainable lifestyle for people enjoying the outdoors. The Green Stop aims to help cities achieve zero waste goals by reducing plastic waste. Scripps researcher and presenter Rachel Labbé-Bellas said that these green stations have the potential to remove 42 million water bottles from the waste stream in California each year, saving the state $4.4 million on beach and waterway cleanup.The refill stations are currently in the design phase, but the team hopes to implement pilot models at several beaches in the near future.
NorthropGrumman and San Diego Zoo Global
Use New Technology to Collect Arctic Sea Ice
A team of San Diego Zoo Global scientists and Northrop Grumman Corporation engineers have returned home from a successful trip aimed at collecting sea ice data in Canada’s Hudson Bay. This was the second year of a unique collaboration to better understand the performance requirements for new technology used to study critical polar bear habitats. The ultimate goal is to more precisely monitor sea ice habitat in a changing climate, in order to better inform future conservation strategies.
During the mission, named Opeeration #PolarEye, the team used a customized unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to provide a more detailed, finer-scale view of sea ice habitat, and to observe polar bears without disturbing the animals or posing a risk to humans. Equipped with four integrated sensors operating simultaneously, the UAS flew 11 sea ice mapping missions and collected an array of habitat data, including three-dimensional sea ice maps and multispectral data, both collected at sub-centimeter resolution. The team also tested the ability of the UAS to detect tracks and signs left behind by polar bears as they migrate from land to sea ice.
Business Confidence Remains
Fairly Steady Looking to 2018
The San Diego County Business Forecast shows the business community’s confidence remains fairly steady as it looks ahead to 2018. The Business Outlook Index (BOI) continues its stay in positive territory, resting now at 14.2, despite a less positive outlook for business conditions.
This month’s Forecast asks about Millennial employees and finds that generally San Diego businesses have had good experiences with their young employees. The most important predictor of satisfaction with Millennial workers is the significance a company places on considering the priorities and desires of this generation.
“Millennials represent an important and productive segment of the workforce, valuable to employers and the future of our economy,” said Jerry Sanders, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber. “While this new population entering the workforce represents a shift in some ways for traditional business, it’s good to see businesses are finding the benefit in bridging any generational gaps.”
Forecast: The San Diego County Business Forecast, sponsored by San Diego Private Bank, shows November’s Business Outlook Index (BOI) continues its stay in positive territory at 14.2.
Omninet Capital Acquires
Mission Center Office Park
Omninet Capital has acquired Mission Center Office Park from Kearny Real Estate Company. Financial terms were not disclosed. The three-building, 183,692-square-foot property located in Mission Valley was 92 percent leased at the time of sale.
Omninet Capital LLC is a diversified investment firm comprised of experienced real estate operators and currently owns over 10 million square feet of commercial space and over 13,000 residential units across the country.
CBRE was the investment adviser in the transaction.
Environmental Groups and Fairgrounds
Reach Agreement to Improve Water Quality
The Del Mar Fairgrounds — in conjunction with San Diego Coastkeeper and Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation — has agreed to a schedule for the completion of significant infrastructure improvements aimed at bringing the fairgrounds into compliance with applicable clean water requirements and improving water quality from the Fairgrounds Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation that services the races and the annual fair.
Improvements resulting from the agreement will include the capture of stormwater from areas of the fairgrounds where animals are housed, and the treatment of that stormwater before discharge into adjacent sensitive waterways. Additionally, the 22nd District Agricultural Association will contribute over $51,000 to the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy to benefit water quality in the San Dieguito River watershed.
“During periods of rainfall, harmful bacteria and pollutants were flowing directly into Stevens Creek and the San Dieguito Lagoon,” said Matt O’Malley, executive director and attorney for San Diego Coastkeeper. “This agreement will help protect sensitive wildlife, as well as the swimmers and surfers who depend on clean water.”
California Competes Tax Credit Workshop
Growing your business in California? On Jan. 8, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development is hosting a free workshop in Carlsbad to explain how the Cal Competes Tax Credit program can get your business access to more than $100 million in tax credits. Since the program began, more than 100 San Diego companies have received $131 million in tax credits tied to the creation of more than 16,000 jobs. Register here.