US (CA): UC receives $15M in climate-focused innovation awards

The University of California has received $15M in grants for UC innovation and entrepreneurship in support of California’s climate action goals.

The awards are part of a historic $185M partnership between UC and the state of California to tackle the climate crisis, from developing new methods for carbon capture to creating innovative coping strategies for drought, wildfire, and other impacts of a warming planet.

Each of UC’s 10 campuses will receive $1M to seed climate-focused entrepreneurial efforts, as will the UC Health system, the UC statewide division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the UC statewide Natural Reserve System, and the UC-affiliated Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories.

“Together, our campuses, national labs, and other UC divisions offer California a comprehensive portfolio of deep expertise, innovative ideas, scalable solutions, and a strong commitment to the state,” said Dr. Theresa Maldonado, UC’s vice president for research & innovation. “We continue to endure persistent climate-related challenges, such as the recent atmospheric rivers and the extreme heat and wildfires in summer and fall. Everyone across UC is eager to play a role in developing placed-based solutions in partnership with communities, industry, and the state.”

The two-year grants will build on the innovation and entrepreneurship resources that already exist across the University, with a focus on projects that will aid California communities, particularly those most vulnerable to climate disasters or which have borne the brunt of historic inequities.

UCLA, for example, plans to use its grant to further refine new technologies for coping with air pollution and extreme heat, two climate impacts that disproportionately affect low-income communities. One of those innovations is an exterior paint that could help homes and businesses without air conditioning stay cooler during heat waves.

“Our materials scientists have developed a supercooling radiative paint that reflects as much as 98 percent of incoming heat from the sun,” said Roger Wakimoto, UCLA’s vice chancellor for research. “With these funds, we will be able to perform the field tests necessary to show that this paint is a durable, cost-effective solution that can help protect vulnerable communities during episodes of extreme heat.”

UC Riverside plans to deploy its funds to launch the OASIS Entrepreneurial Academy, which will offer education, mentorship, and help with commercialization to climate innovators from across the Inland Empire.

UC San Francisco will use its funds to develop data and best practices for helping those at the highest risk from the adverse health impacts of wildfire smoke in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the development of a clinical emergency response plan at the UCSF Health system for wildfire smoke events.

The 2022-23 state budget provided the $15M in funds as part of a larger investment in climate action projects that will have a measurable impact over the next one to three years. Later this year, UC will award an additional $80 million in grants to researchers at higher education institutions across the state as part of its alliance with California lawmakers to bring cross-disciplinary, multi-sector expertise to bear on the climate crisis.


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