Alliance Blog

SDSU Moves to SoCal’s Innovation Main Stage

Though occasionally one can stumble into greatness, more often than not success comes through an on-going commitment to executing a thoughtfully developed plan. Such is the case with the early accomplishments achieved by San Diego State University’s 2020 – 2025 We Rise, We Defy strategic plan where research and innovation is integral to SDSU’s powerful vision of transcending borders and transforming lives. 

The university’s strategic plan calls on SDSU to move from R2 status (high research activity) to R1 (the highest level of a research activity). The evidence is mounting that this transformation is well underway, which is not only important to SDSU but to our regional desire to further cement SoCal as a global leader in research and innovation as articulated in our own master plan for the region developed by the Boston Consulting Group in 2018. 

Over the last several months, we have had the good fortune of spending time at SDSU and with the university’s amazing team, including Vice President of Research and Innovation Hala Madanat, Director of Technology Transfer Tommy Martindale, Director of Strategic Partnerships Natasha Bliss, and ZIP Launchpad Director Cathy Pucher. We were impressed by both their incredible commitment to their forward-looking vision and their rapid achievement of significant milestones. I’d like to share a few compelling “proof points” that validates SDSU’s strategic march to SoCal’s innovation main stage:

  • SDSU’s research portfolio has grown on a steep trajectory under Vice President Madanat’s leadership. SDSU researchers secured a record-breaking $164.5 million in grant funding in FY 2022, which represents 17% growth over the previous year. 
  • SDSU’s ambitious 132-acre Mission Valley Site will include an Innovation District comprising 1.6 million square feet of space thoughtfully developed to expand capacity for SDSU focused research and innovation that will be engaged with strategically aligned private and public partner organizations. The first Innovation District phase will likely be completed in 2025-2026, with a full build-out over the course of the next decade.
  • In July, SDSU announced its first Strategic Partner to be included in Phase 1 of the Innovation District with Quidel which includes an agreement establishing research partnership between Quidel and SDSU to pursue research projects that foster scientific learning and discovery.
  • On October 27, SDSU announced the launch of its new accelerator in collaboration with leading global accelerator platform Techstars to anchor this community hub for innovation: Techstars San Diego powered by SDSU. The accelerator will build on the innovation support SDSU currently contributes to the region through a myriad of programs, including the ZIP LaunchPad Incubator (whose teams have raised $38.13 million) and CSU Biological Sciences I-Corps Site.
  • SDSU’s Division of Research and Innovation demonstrated its commitment to investing in advancing innovative SDSU technologies toward commercial readiness with the launch of a proof-of-concept fund (the “Pilot Innovation Fund”) in Summer 2021, which has now invested in developing five SDSU technologies recommended for funding by external domain experts. A change to SDSU’s royalty-distribution guidelines in August 2022 allows for this proof-of-concept fund to be sustained, and will lead to growth of the funds available to invest. 
  • Just this week we learned that SDSU will augment its leadership team by hiring an Associate Vice President of Innovation (AVPI) to both strategize and execute the engagement of the SDSU innovation ecosystem. The AVPI will provide leadership and programmatic oversight of commercialization and technology transfer activities, and entrepreneurial support for faculty, students, and staff. They will also support internal and external strategic partnerships in furtherance of research, innovation, and the development of the SDSU Mission Valley Innovation District. Interested parties are encouraged to apply.

At the Alliance we enthusiastically celebrate the success of key ecosystem partners since it is their actions that really drive measurable progress toward achieving our mission. Though we support their initiatives through collaboration and connection-making, they are the ones who make the tangible commitments to increasing the capacity and quality of our regional innovation engine – as you might imagine the amazing progress at SDSU has us breaking out the champagne and noisemakers! 

As further acknowledgment of their impressive progress, later this year the Alliance intends to formally add SDSU’s VP of Research Hala Madanat to the Alliance board of directors to join top leaders from all of SoCal’s top research institutions. Congrats on the amazing progress and we are excited for what the future holds!