Regents spotlight UCR’s role in economic growth and public health

University of California Regents convened at UC Riverside on Friday, Jan. 27, for a daylong series of meetings that highlighted the campus’s role in fostering economic growth through technology development, agricultural innovation and public health.

The Board of Trustees heard from campus leaders, researchers, students and community leaders about UCR’s vital role in the region’s multidisciplinary transformation and was urged to continue or expand its support. They also toured the multidisciplinary research building, where they met with entrepreneurs developing technology for new startups in the Life Sciences Incubator.

During the morning session, the Regents’ Special Committee on Innovation Transfer and Entrepreneurship focused on the role of UCR as an economic engine for the region. In the afternoon, the Regent’s Committee on Public Engagement and Development discussed how the School of Medicine is working to reduce health disparities.

Regents meet at UCR

The Board of Directors met in UCR’s HUB 302 on Friday, January 27th. (Christopher Vargas/UCR)

The regents last met collectively on campus in 2020, when the board held town halls during the UC presidential search. The last regular meeting of the regents on campus was in 2012.

Regent Lark Park, chair of the Regents Special Committee on Innovation Transfer and Entrepreneurship, praised the progress UCR has made on several fronts, from leading the nation in student social mobility to new capital improvement projects completed or underway, such as the new Medical faculty and buildings of the Business School.

“This is a true army of transformation and innovation that will have incredible, far-reaching impact,” she said.

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“We are all so proud of what the campus has accomplished over the last decade,” Lark added.

Regent Janet Riley, chair of the Public Engagement and Development Committee, said it was exciting and valuable to see and hear how UCR is developing solutions to regional issues. Those discussions will inform how the regents can help support the campus, she said.

“There’s an energy on this campus that’s unique, and I really get a sense of the pioneering spirit,” she said. “There is a real drive and excitement for what the future holds.” I’m always full of energy when I come here.”

Chancellor Kim A. Wilcock welcomed the regents and joined Rodolfo Torres, vice chancellor for research and economic development, and Rosibel Ochoi, assistant provost for technology partnerships, for a presentation on the work of the Office of Technology Partnerships with students, faculty, businesses, and the community.

“It means a lot to us to show what’s going on,” Wilcox said. “It’s a team sport and I want to give you credit for where we are.

Wilcox noted that the economic impact of the campus predates the founding of UCR, when his land was a citrus experimentation station. He said the influence has grown in the decades since. For example, the Tango Tangerine, developed by UCR researchers, is now sold in over 50 countries and is among the top-grossing UC inventions.

The campus is addressing future areas of innovation in agriculture, air quality and clean energy in a way that is inclusive, environmentally and economically sustainable and builds on its legacy of research, Wilcox said.

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“We have a chance in growth areas now to change what the future looks like,” he said.

Regents visit MRB

UCR Chancellor Kim A. Wilcock joins the regents on a tour of the Multidisciplinary Research Building on Friday, January 27. (Christopher Vargas/UCR)

Planned UCR projects include the OASIS Clean Technology Park near the new California Air Resources Board facility and the Northside Agricultural Innovation Center, which will develop climate-smart solutions in agriculture. The Palm Desert campus will soon have a training lab to analyze lithium and other critical minerals for electric vehicle batteries and other clean technology.

Torres described how the Office of Technology Partnerships works with students, faculty members and entrepreneurs to support new technology research through its on- and off-campus incubators, proof-of-concept grants and training programs.

“We’re leveraging our region’s assets and talent to develop, attract and commercialize innovation right here in the Inland Empire to help shape the future of California and beyond,” Torres said. “With limited resources, working with multiple stakeholders, we have identified solutions to many of our regional issues.”

Regents visit MRB

Regents tour the multidisciplinary research building on Friday, January 27. (Christopher Vargas/UCR)

In the area of ​​public health, the regents heard how the Faculty of Medicine, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, is solving the problem of the lack of doctors in the region by training future doctors. The construction of the state-financed educational building II of the Faculty of Medicine is underway, which will open by the fall and allow for an increase in the number of trained students.

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“We enroll students who live in the Inland Realm, who have lived here at some point and are returning to the Inland Realm,” said Dr. Deborah Deas, provost for health sciences and Mark and Pam Rubin dean of the UCR School of Medicine.

But both Deas and state Sen. Richard Roth, a strong supporter of the School of Medicine, spoke of the need for medical school students to have expanded access to clinical training as enrollments grow. Although the school has ties to local hospitals and clinics at 17 locations, it faces increased competition for those spots, Deas said.

Roth said he would like to continue to stabilize the school so it can better fulfill its mission of serving the underserved and transforming the workforce.

“We have built a strong foundation for community development and engagement, but there is more to do,” he said.

Finally, the regents heard how the UCR Science to Policy program places science students in internships and fellowships with lawmakers so they can influence public policy. The program, which started with five students in 2018, now has 40 participants per year.

“We need scientists who can communicate the impact of science to the general public and policymakers,” said Susan Hackwood, director of the program. Hackwood is professor emeritus of computer and electrical engineering and founding dean of the Bourns College of Engineering.


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