Innovation Awards Will Recognize Tech Entrepreneurs
March 22, 2016
By Sonia Fernandez
Monday, March 21, 2016
Even before terms such as “venture capitalist,” “tech startup” and “disruptive technology” entered the mainstream vernacular, UC Santa Barbara was a regional hub for high-tech innovation.
As far back as the mid-1980s, faculty members whose tech savvy and business acumen were matched only by their research and teaching prowess took advantage of a healthy entrepreneurial environment and a climate ripe for technological innovations.
Among UCSB’s most notable early entrepreneurs and tech pioneers are materials professor Steven DenBaars and physics professors Virgil Elings and Alan Heeger. DenBaars co-founded Nitres, a solid-state lighting company, while Elings sought to make atomic force microscopes readily available to scientists and engineers — effectively kickstarting the field of nanotechnology — with his company Digital Instruments. Heeger, before he won the 2000 Nobel Prize for chemistry, had been exploring the possibilities of organic LED technology with his company Uniax, which was later acquired by DuPont Display.
Most of the Village participants are fairly new, and in a nod to the strength of the area’s entrepreneurial tradition, at least one newcomer is a spinoff of a UCSB spinoff: the laser-based lighting company SoraaLaser, which sprung from Soraa, the LED-based lighting company started by DenBaars, UCSB materials professor James Speck and professor Shuji Nakamura, recipient of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the bright blue LED.