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$10-Million Irvine Project : Center to Aid Fledgling High-Tech Firms Planned

July 09, 1986|LESLIE BERKMAN | Times Staff Writer

The Irvine Co. plans to build a $10-million "innovation center" next to the University of California, Irvine, campus to provide technical assistance for fledgling high-tech companies and to encourage better interaction between the university and private enterprise.

Richard G. Sim, a senior Irvine Co. official, said Tuesday that the 100,000-square-foot facility will be a key component of a research park being developed by the university and the Newport Beach-based real estate development firm.

The 265-acre park will also contain the western headquarters of the Washington-based National Academy of Sciences and the Irvine Co.'s executive hotel-conference center, as well as office sites for technologically oriented corporations, he added.

Construction of the seven-acre innovation center is expected to start early next year, with the opening scheduled for early 1988.

Sim said tenants chosen for the center will reflect a wide range of technological fields that could benefit from proximity to the university. In turn, he added, the university may provide professors to serve as consultants and graduate students to work in laboratories.

Guidelines for admission to the center will be set by an advisory committee, Sims said. Representatives of the university, the national academy, the Irvine Co., the City of Irvine and perhaps a respected scientist will be invited to serve on the committee, he added.

Sim said the start-up companies "with the best, cutting-edge ideas" that are selected will be be able to rent space in the center at below-market rates for two to three years, after which they will be required to move out of the center to make way for newcomers. A full-time director at the center will give business advice to the tenant firms.

The Irvine Co.'s hope is that firms that get their first helping hand at the center will stay in Irvine as they expand.

"We regard it (the innovation center) as an important tool to help us keep high technology in Irvine," Sim said.

University and Irvine Co. planners speculate that the innovation center may help channel some commercially promising ideas out of university laboratories and into new products.

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