The master of innovation

by TOM BERG

Richard Sudek is talking about the latest innovations in lasers, knee surgery and robots – all happening right here in Irvine.

Sudek is a master of innovation, connecting young entrepreneurs with venture capital, while helping to launch nearly 400 startups in the past five years. “We’re creating a center of gravity for entrepreneurs in Orange County,” says the executive director of UCI Beall Applied Innovation – Irvine’s hub for entrepreneurs.

Applied Innovation recently moved into a 100,000-square-foot building in UCI Research Park, where we sat down with Sudek to ask him about his role in Irvine’s economy.

What does Applied Innovation do?

We help move UCI research into the marketplace. We also have weekly programs for the public covering topics like artificial intelligence, app development and women entrepreneurs. Over 50,000 people visited our office, called the Cove, last year.

How do you help startups?

Our Wayfinder incubator program gives UCI-affiliated startups the resources to succeed. The six-month program includes office space, mentors, lab access, workshops and reviews. It ends with a showcase to pitch your product.

Tell us about UCI Research Park.

UCI Research Park is a huge strategic advantage for the community and for UCI. It’s like Stanford Research Park and Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. Having a 185-acre office-campus adjacent to UCI allows us to create deeper relationships with companies that want to be here for our research and talent pool of students.

How does your work benefit Irvine?

We’ve launched nearly 400 UCI startups that have attracted $25 billion in investment and acquisition dollars. We’re also attracting startups from the Netherlands, the U.K. and around the world. All this supports Irvine’s successful tech clusters in med tech, financial tech, gaming and artificial intelligence.

How does innovation help Irvine residents?

They get high-paying STEM jobs. They get world-renowned researchers, world-renowned entrepreneurs and a vibrant, modern middle class that we are really helping drive. This creates a great place to live – and Irvine is the center of that.

Predictions?

All the fundamentals are here: America’s No. 1 public university, top-ranked schools, green space and creative office space. I’m very bullish on Irvine. I think that Irvine and Orange County can be one of the most vibrant and innovative startup ecosystems in the U.S.