Some Implications of the California Regents Proposed UC Ventures

Michael Merenze & Christopher Newfield:

My thinking about the formation of “UC Ventures” is influenced by the fact that today I am flying from London to Berlin to film some thin-film solar photovoltaic researchers and executives who have been living for years in the “valley of death” between important research results and commercial revenues. The photo is of the May, 2011 inauguration of the flagship building for Soltecture, one of the world’s best thin-film PV companies that promised to bring zero-energy capabilities to old and new buildings a few years from then. When I stood in front of the building one year after this photo, it had closed, and the company was gone.

Thus my questions about UC Ventures start with whether it will actually help avoid the collapse–or non-start– of socially valuable technologies for lack of patient, long-term, adequate financial support. Will UC Ventures be a “patient investor” that sides unequivocally with the technology–and with the future public that will use it? Will it offer something special to late-stage technology by entering when others have left? Will it help original, early-stage research with long-term commitments? Is it fish or is it fowl, or some other, political species?