By Naveed Mansoori

In the past decade, UC Santa Cruz has come to the forefront of science and technology research, and recent moves seem to indicate that the university is committed to retaining that status.	

In a joint venture announced March 7, Hewlett-Packard (HP) agreed to join with NASA and UCSC to support research at UCSC’s Silicon Valley-based NASA Research Park (NRP). The agreement should help the NRP conduct studies in biotechnology, information technology, and nanotechnology by furthering the development of its Bio-Info-Nano Research and Development Institute (BIN-RDI).

David Lackner, director of the affiliates program for BIN-RDI, was one of the most prominent leaders in advocating for the HP-UCSC-NASA marriage.

“They are a clear target for us because they are doing a lot of work in nanotechnology at a high level,” Lackner said. “But at the same time they are a very consumer-based company, so it will benefit you and me in the long run.”

Among the first priorities of the new BIN-RDI program will be a focus on developing equipment to find cancerous tumors, the creation of more efficient solar cells, and the development of smaller components for computer chips.	

Those affiliated with the program believe that HP, an industry leader, will provide the financial support, faculty, equipment, and strategy necessary to jump-start the BIN-RDI programs.

The BIN-RDI program began when UCSC and NASA Ames teamed up and received $2 million in federal seed funding last year with help from Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Anne Eshoo (D-Palo Alto).

William Berry, managing director of the University Affiliated Research Center, sees the agreement with HP as a vital step in staying atop the scientific and technological fields.

“We all need to be connected to Silicon Valley and where Silicon Valley is going in the future,” Berry said. “The future of Silicon Valley is very high-tech.”

The BIN-RDI headquarters will be housed in what is now a fully functional NASA laboratory. Once the program is initiated, any revenue will be used to continue research and help development of the university’s technology-based programs.

“UCSC is a state institution,” Berry said. “But the amount of state support is getting proportionally less, so UCSC has to have means of bringing in other private and public dollars to augment the funds it gets from the state.”

Carl Walsh, professor of economics at UCSC and vice provost for Silicon Valley Initiatives, is excited about the possibilities the program presents for students and faculty alike. Walsh is responsible for running the academic programs that the UARC, NASA Ames, and BIN-RDI provide.

“The positive benefit for UCSC is that it will promote research opportunities for faculty, graduate students, and, possibly, undergraduate students,” Walsh said.

“Developing research creates the intellectual property that will allow future leadership in arenas of technology that will be important in battling global warming, self-sufficiency, etc,” Berry said. “The best way would be to build a facility here that will allow UCSC to work collaboratively to generate the new ideas that will power us all in the future and to the general well-being and health of most of the people on the planet.”