Errol Arkilic

Tech guru lands at UCI

by TOM BERG

Tech has always been a part of Errol Arkilic’s life.

As a child, he’d sit with his father – an engineering professor – and watch the PBS program “Wall Street Week.” The show was a high-brow, less-produced predecessor to “Shark Tank,” on which companies pitch ideas to investors.

Arkilic was captivated.

“I saw these scientists marketing ideas that could change lives,” he recalls. “It was my first real taste of entrepreneurship, and I was hooked.”

He hasn’t looked back since. The Washington, D.C., native earned a Ph.D. in aero/astro engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He went on to launch the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps, a congressionally authorized incubator supporting fundamental discoveries in science and engineering. More recently, he hatched several promising tech firms through his firm, M34 Capital.

Arkilic now calls UC Irvine home.

He was recently named head of UCI Beall Applied Innovation – the university’s own incubator for tech startups.

“I’ve been in the tech space for 25 years,” he says. “Applied Innovation is one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever seen.”

“We can take the lead position and help make Irvine a hotbed of AI and machine learning.” –Errol Arkilic

Applied Innovation’s purpose is to help nurture an idea – perhaps born in a UCI classroom – all the way to the marketplace.

In its first seven years, the project has turned more than 80 ideas into tech companies and helped secure $26 billion in investment or returns – about 60% of which has stayed in Southern California.

Arkilic’s first day at Applied Innovation was Oct. 1, but he already has plans to build upon this success.

He sees Irvine as a leader in tech and innovation. He is particularly excited about the role Irvine can play in artificial intelligence – technology that’s now incorporated into nearly every tech invention.

“AI is part of every discipline,” he says. “We can take the lead position and help make Irvine a hotbed of AI and machine learning.”

Arkilic says Irvine might one day join Silicon Valley and Boston as nationally recognized centers of tech. Entrepreneurship is already embedded in its character, he adds, and business leaders recognize the city can thrive with investments in innovation.

“There are captains of industry investing their time and resources into making Irvine successful,’’ he says. “That’s not common in the United States. But it’s happening here.”