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  • Paul K. Mueller

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  • Paul K. Mueller

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Eric Swalwell and Rep. Scott Peters

From left, Rep. Eric Swalwell and Rep. Scott Peters. Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

Congressmen Praise ‘Innovation Ecosystem’ of Campus Entrepreneurs During Visit


Two congressmen who know a lot about innovation were wowed by last week’s tour of the Qualcomm Institute, where they heard about UC San Diego’s new Office of Innovation and Commercialization and met student entrepreneurs at QI’s prototyping facility.

Representing this region and Silicon Valley, Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Hayward) also took the opportunity to introduce legislation—the Start Up America’s Students Act and the Building Opportunities for Student Startups Act—to encourage and help finance the kind of promising and productive incubators they visited on campus.

“We saw some great demonstrations right here,” Peters told students, faculty members and reporters.

As members of the Future Forum, a congressional group of like-minded young Democrats, the two congressmen said they have a special interest in the hopes and challenges of the “Millennial Generation” now rising through our colleges and our culture.

Some innovative and articulate members of that generation explained both their current work—designing and producing rocket engines and other parts using 3D printers—and the student-loan burdens that could threaten their chances for success.


Paul Roben, Associate Vice Chancellor for Innovation and Commercialization

Rep. Swalwell heard the message. “We’ve learned that student loan debt is affecting a whole generation, from being able to take a job they really want, to be able to start a family, to buy a home, or to take a risk and start a business.”

His proposed legislation seeks to alleviate the burden by supporting university-based incubators and other entrepreneurial programs.

Both congressmen learned a great deal about how those kinds of programs are prospering at UC San Diego.

At an informal roundtable prior to the Qualcomm Institute tour, Executive Vice Chancellor Suresh Subramani and Paul Roben, head of the new Office of Innovation and Commercialization, provided an overview of existing and planned aspects of the campus “Innovation Ecosystem.”

Oher speakers at the roundtable described the work of their organizations: Lada Rasochova for the Triton Innovation (TriNet) Challenge; Christine Castillo for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Alex Boone for the student group UCSD Entrepreneur Challenge; and Gloria Negrete for The Basement, which is operated by Alumni & Community Engagement and Career & Professional Development.


Ramesh Rao spoke for Qualcomm Institute, and served as master of ceremonies and tour guide for the congressmen and their entourage.

The impressed politicians heard 10-minute presentations by student entrepreneurs about their companies Additive Rocket Company, Planet 3, and VirBELA and, at a following Open Forum, heard students describe their experiences starting their companies Launch Boom and Hush.

Students and congressmen traded experiences and observations at the Open Forum, discussing student debt, climate change, housing, immigration, and other “millennial” concerns.

“I’m impressed by the spirit of discovery and change I see every time I visit UC San Diego,” said Peters. “The campus creates a great climate for innovation.”

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