The University of California in Irvine has been widely considered to be a leading innovation and research university in the U.S. UC Irvine and the surrounding business community comprises of students and staff who continuously develop new disruptive technology and innovations while also performing a comprehensive amount of research across an array of industries. The university also assisted with the development of UCI Applied Innovation at the UCI Research Park, which is a highly successful initiative that combines campus-based inventions with the business community of Orange County.
The goal of UCI Applied Innovation is to foster entrepreneurship and innovation throughout the surrounding community, which is meant to benefit the students of UCI as well as local startups and larger corporations who have a presence in the local community. UCI holds many competitions throughout the year while also providing numerous resources that can be used for budding entrepreneurs and local startups.
On top of the many coworking spaces throughout Orange County, the city as a whole consists of a thriving business community that's able to take advantage of the many resources that are provided by UCI. Irvine itself is the central hub for innovation and technology, which includes such fields as bioscience and medtech. Among the top initiatives of UCI Applied Innovation is the UCI Wayfinder incubator program, which is designed to provide local startups and entrepreneurs with the tools and resources they need to grow their business.
Member Perks & Resources of the Wayfinder Incubator
The Wayfinder Incubator provides the teams and startups that join with a comprehensive amount of member perks and resources. These resources typically would otherwise be unavailable to entrepreneurs and startups that have a limited budget and include everything from strategic guidance to expansive workspaces that can accommodate the startup's every need. When a team or entrepreneur joins the Wayfinder incubator, they are provided with numerous benefits that include networking opportunities with the local business community, meeting rooms, office space, lab space, funding resources, and potential mentorship, all of which can be invaluable when attempting to convert a young startup into a burgeoning and successful company.
In its short existence, the Wayfinder program has already propelled many local startups to international success. Many of these startups have become recognized brands across the world, which may not have been possible without the resources provided by the UCI Wayfinder program. Along with the many features and amenities on hand at the incubator, any member of this program is also provided with a fantastic work environment that fosters creativity and encourages innovation, both of which can often be stifled in structured corporate work environments. Any entrepreneur or startup that joins the Wayfinder incubator has access to its facilities for a six month period.
Workspaces for Promising Startups & Entrepreneurs
The workspaces available through the UCI Wayfinder incubator program are a part of The Cove, which is a facet of UCI Applied Innovation that's comprised of 31,000 square feet of workspaces. The main workspace for the Wayfinder program is the OC Cove, which is an open workspace area that provides members with access to offices, desks, conference rooms, and event spaces. Each aspect of this workspace is designed with efficiency in mind. The open layout of the workspace facilitates a cooperative environment where members of the incubator program can work together to find creative solutions.
This workspace also provides members of the incubator program with access to a variety of partners throughout the Orange County business community, which includes businesses and mentors within technological, financial, investment, and education sectors. Some of the additional amenities that can be accessed by members of this program include grant and scholarship assistance, legal consulting, and on-site business planning. The standard office features that are available at the main workspace include rolling chairs, a spacious kitchen, vending machines, an outdoor patio, white boards, and a reception area.
The two conference rooms that can be used for events and business meets are known as the beach and the screening room, both of which offer modern audio and video equipment as well as meeting spaces that can be converted into a variety of seating arrangements to fit any kind of event. Members of the UCI Wayfinder incubator program are given access to lab space, which is commonly used by startups and entrepreneurs in the medtech and bioscience industries. This lab space is available to members of the incubator on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, which ensures that you are able to tailor your use of the lab space to the needs of your startup.
Before using the lab, you'll be given extensive training with the lab equipment to make sure that you know how to use everything in there. There are two separate labs on hand for Wayfinder members, which includes the 5141 and 5171 labs. The 5141 lab is outfitted with 600 square feet of space as well as numerous pieces of high-tech equipment such as power supplies, soldering equipment, oscilloscopes, vinyl cutters, and open work tables. The 5171 lab has 1,600 square feet of space and is equipped with an array of fantastic amenities like private benches, computer workstations, inspection microscopes, and casting and molding stations.
Networking & Professional Resources
As a member of the Wayfinder incubator program, you will have access to an extensive network of business leaders, tech gurus, angel investors, entrepreneurial experts, and venture capitalists, which ensures that you'll have many networking opportunities at your disposal during your time in the program. Each partner of the Wayfinder program and UCI Applied Innovation is a part of the Orange County business community. Access to these companies and individuals can provide you with the knowledge and resources necessary to grow your company and avoid common startup pitfalls.
While participating in the Wayfinder program, you can schedule meetings with a wide range of reputable professionals during regular office hours. These professionals include experienced lawyers, investors, and other professionals who can help guide your business in the right direction. You'll also be able to make use of guidance and mentorship from a large number of innovation advisors who have partnered up with Wayfinder. These advisors can give you invaluable advice, feedback, and insight that will help you grow your business. This assistance is provided through structured check-ins.
Workshops & Local Events
Among the most beneficial aspects of the Wayfinder incubator program is that it provides access to an array of workshops and local events that focus on many different aspects of running and growing a business. Hundreds of workshops are held at UCI Applied Innovation every year, which focus on a range of different subjects that include everything from building a winning team to the importance of intellectual property. Due to how many workshops are available, you have the option to attend the ones that are specific to your business or the industry that you operate in.
Along with the workshops, there are also many different events held throughout the year, one of which is a 1 Million Cups event that takes place each week and focuses on fostering a thriving peer network among startups and entrepreneurs of the Orange County business community as well as the Wayfinder program. The events and workshops provided at UCI Applied Innovation give the teams in the Wayfinder incubator an ample amount of educational opportunities that could be the necessary ingredient to success.
The Tech Surge Track of the UCI New Venture Competition
A top initiative that's hosted in coordination with UCI and the Beall Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is the UCI New Venture Competition, which provides inventors, creators, and aspiring entrepreneurs with the opportunity to create a team, launch a startup, and possibly fund their business idea. This competition is held annually over a five month period of time and has proven to be a fantastic way to foster innovation among UCI staff members, students, researchers, and community members.
A special track available for the UCI New Venture Competition is the Tech Surge track, which is focused on UCI-generated innovations. In order for a startup team to qualify for this special track, they will be required to use UCI intellectual property as a core aspect within the business plan that they wish to enter into competition. The various winners of the Tech Surge track will be eligible for grant money that extends past $15,000. This grant money can be used for the continued development of the business plan that was entered into the competition. The continued development will take place in the Wayfinder incubator program, which ensures that you have a range of modern tools and resources at your disposal along with the grant money.
How to Apply to the Wayfinder Incubator
If you're thinking about applying to the Wayfinder incubator, doing so is relatively straightforward. The Wayfinder incubator application is available four times each calendar year with each team having access to their workspaces and resources for a period of approximately six months. In order to be eligible for the Wayfinder program, your startup will need to fit one or more of two separate criteria. The first aspect of this criteria states that your startup will need to be using intellectual property that's UCI-owned as a core facet of your business idea. The second aspect of this criteria states that at least one active member of the team will need to be a current student, staff member, faculty member, or alumnus of UCI. This team member will need to be a co-founder of the startup or a member of the management team. If you meet at least one of these criteria, you will be eligible for the program and can focus on your application.
The online application is somewhat lengthy and is broken down into six separate sections, which include use of campus resources, general startup information, startup details, program experience, team member experience, and other. You can save your progress at any time, which should help you avoid rushing through the application. Even if you're eligible for this program, your startup will still need to meet several criteria in order to be admitted into the program.
For instance, your team must have a basic understanding of your basic business model and must be able to properly communicate what this model is. Your startup must also address a real customer need or problem. Each member of your startup team will need to commit the amount of time that's necessary to participate within the Wayfinder program in an active manner. A two-day bootcamp must be attended by your team upon admittance to the program.
You can apply to the Wayfinder Incubator program here.