When talking California innovation, it’s all about the network

150 150 Cheryl Getuiza

(photo credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

When something is already great, do you mess around to try and make it even greater? The answer, for a lot of Californians, is yes.

California is already home to the most substantial network of public-private innovation centers, called iHubs here, in the nation. Now, the state has four more, bringing the total to 16.

“The iHub program has helped launch start-ups that are making advancements in tech, science, venture capital and more” said Louis Stewart, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz). “California has set a standard for advancing innovation that is being emulated around the world and GO-Biz is looking for ways to facilitate new opportunities through expanding the iHub program.”

The new iHubs are:

  • iHub San Joaquin – This hub will focus on advancing emerging technologies and businesses in the areas of healthcare, sustainable construction technologies and agribusiness.
  • iDEA Hub – The focus of iDEA will be on growing the defense, energy and aerospace technology sectors in Kern and Ventura counties.
  • CNMI iHub – The California Network for Manufacturing Innovation is a statewide collaboration (CNMI). This hub will be a one-stop organization for small- and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) to secure workforce development, technology transfer, and improvement services throughout California.
  • Inland SoCal Link iHub-The partnership of the County of Riverside and the Port of Los Angeles will maximize opportunities within the transportation corridor linking the port with the Inland Southern California region.

The new iHub designations come days after Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 250 to formally recognize the iHub program in the state.

“AB 250 is a very big step forward in driving California’s innovation based economy,” said Kish Rajan, GO-Biz Director. “The Legislature and the Governor recognize innovation is the fundamental driver, it’s what really distinguishes California’s economy above all else.”

Due to the success of the program so far, the bill will formally make the iHub network into a real state entity, says Rajan.

“It also gives the iHub program greater structure. So now we can help support the development and the growth of each of the individual iHubs, but then, even more than that, we will be able to create the entity that is the network of all 16, which is of course, the largest in-state innovation network in the country,” said Rajan.

The existing twelve iHubs are spread across the state from Redding to San Diego and cover many of the state’s most vibrant sectors from agriculture to life sciences to medical technology and bio-mass.

This year, iHubs have received nearly $3 million in funding including:

  • $1 million from the City of Palm Springs for the Coachella Valley Accelerator Campus.
  • $100,000 for China Lake Technologies to develop a strategy to create new jobs in the Kern County region in the emerging bio-products industry.
  • $1 million in the i6 Challenge Grants for a partnership between SARTA and UC Davis to create a Sacramento area AgTech Innovation Center that will help farmers and ranchers grown their business.

“SARTA has been the lead on the Sacramento region’s state-designated iHub since the program’s inception in 2010, and is one of the original six iHubs,” said Meg Arnold, CEO, SARTA.

“The initial expansion, from six to twelve, was a chance to enhance the collective network and profile the iHub program overall, as well as the individual iHubs. iHubs across the state actively work to enhance that long-standing engine of the California economy-innovative, high-growth companies. The iHub program is a valuable way of supporting the growth of our state’s economy, while acknowledging the important distinctions and differences among regions.”

“Getting the cross pollination and the best practices, sharing of what’s happening across each of them, I think it will allow us to fully harness and truly unleash the complete capacity of California’s innovation climate and culture and I think that will prove to be enormously successful in the long run,” said Rajan.

Support of the state’s thriving iHub program was one of the successful action items of the California Economic Summit’s Innovation Action Team formed after the 2012 Summit. The 2013 Action Teams will create a new Action Plan after the 2013 Summit takes place in Los Angeles on November 7-8.


Cheryl Getuiza

All stories by: Cheryl Getuiza