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For Innovators & Entrepreneurs

Office of Technology, Innovation, and Industry Relations provides resources for innovators and entrepreneurs to develop business ideas, facilitate partnerships, and find funding.


The Blackstone LaunchPad makes entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial skills accessible and relevant for all college students while they are still in school to ensure career readiness. Creating a framework for campus-wide entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial skill building while adding value to existing programs with access to critical resources, networks, and events.

Students learn by doing, gaining knowledge and critical skills to lead with multi-cultural competencies to help solve some of 21st centuries pressing societal and environmental issues. Fueling economic development by igniting entrepreneurship where students are and prepare graduates to enter the job market and build next generation careers. Facilitating access to global network of mentors and advisors and offer unique virtual and physical convening opportunities so thousands of students can go further, faster.

Annual Conference and Pitch Competition

LaunchPad’s global network event brings together hundreds of student entrepreneurs, Campus Directors, and subject matter experts from Blackstone, and other industry partners to help participants grow their network and get the training and advice they need to propel their companies forward. In partnership with Startup Grind’s Global Conference next year, student ventures compete for over $50,000 in prizes.

Summer Fellowship

In this 8-week virtual program, student founders receive $5,000 to support their time working on advancing their startups. The LaunchPad Fellowship is largely self-driven, but also offers relevant startup workshops, peer networking events, mentor connections, and other opportunities to build entrepreneurial skills. This program is delivered virtually, in partnership Future Founders

NSF I-Corps @ UC Merced

The I-Corps training is not about how to write a research paper, business plan or NSF proposal. The result is not a publication or a deck of slides or even a scientific discovery. Instead, the entire I-Corps training is about engaging with industry contacts, talking to potential customers, partners, and competitors, and encountering the uncertainty and excitement of creating successful innovations. Connecting the university lab to industry contacts, exploring commercial potential through the Customer Discovery, is what the effort is all about. US NSF-I-Corps

Teams participate together in the I-Corps training which provides real-world, hands-on, immersive learning about what it takes to successfully transfer knowledge into products and processes that benefit society.

Fall 2021 I-Corps @ UC Merced

Last fall we saw thirteen teams participate in I-Corps @ UC Merced over the course of ten weeks. The technology they market-tested included therapeutics, diagnostics, new biological platforms, solar thermal, algorithms, software, air and water quality systems, agtech robotics, IoT systems, physics, climate resilience. Most of the thirteen teams came away with a different view of their potential market as they did their customer discovery.

Spring 2022 sessions will take place in March and April, online

The I-Corps training course is a free program where teams learn how to conduct customer interviews to gain customer feedback and define customer segments for a current or recent University or National Lab technology.

FAQs about I-Corps @ UC Merced

What should you expect?

In Spring 2022, you'll learn the Lean Startup methodology and do at least fifteen customer discovery interviews while building your professional industry connections and furthering your career opportunities.

Do you need to have a company?

You don’t need to have a company, just a potentially licensable invention. This program can help you decide how to move the invention forward. If you already have a company, the program can help you define your value proposition and customer segments and find more partners and customers through the customer discovery process.

Do you need to have a team?

If you don’t have a team, you can form a team from other participants. You will need at least one teammate to participate with you and even a temporary teammate.

Do you need to be a UC Merced student?

All UC Merced students and faculty are welcome to participate in the program.

Workshops and Trainings

Innovation + Design Hub

Bridge the gap between discovery and commercialization:


‘Rent’ your product to a company that’s already in business. They do all the manufacturing, distribution, and selling of your product. In exchange, you receive royalty payments (usually ~5%) on the wholesale price of every single product they sell. Companies look for creative ideas from outside to stay innovative and competitive through open innovation.

Benefits of licensing:

  • Speed to market: It’s the fastest way to bring a product to market and gain distribution. It’s about selling first and selling fast.
  • Low cost with least experience: Anyone can learn how to license products and doesn’t require expertise in starting a business.
  • Accessible: It removes the barrier so anyone can bring products to market, regardless of where they live and how much capital they can raise.


  • Write a business plan and build a team
  • Incorporate a corporation and get required tax id, business licenses and insurance
  • Open bank accounts and hire third party firms to get legal and accounting services
  • Register the corporation in various databases to apply for non-dilutive funding from sources such as SBA through SBIR/STTR programs
  • Raise dilutive capital from investors and/or debt financing from banks
  • Source Manufacturing
  • Hire professional staff, business executives and management
  • Hire third party firms to manage payroll, employment benefits and insurance
  • Develop sales, marketing and advertising strategy, budgets and operations
  • Fulfill and distribute orders
  • Takes time, money, connections, and experience