Manel Camps appointed faculty director of UCSC Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development

Manel Camps
Manel Camps (photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

UC Santa Cruz has appointed Manel Camps, professor of microbiology and environmental toxicology and provost of Crown College, to serve as the director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development (CIED). Marco Rolandi, who had been appointed as director earlier this year, withdrew due to extenuating circumstances.

CIED promotes the development, research, and teaching of innovation and entrepreneurship at UC Santa Cruz and its partners. The center works with faculty, students, and the Santa Cruz community to support technological innovation and entrepreneurship through a variety of programs and activities.

Camps said he looks forward to building a dynamic and sustainable entrepreneurship community on campus, working closely with the assistant vice chancellor for innovation and business engagement to integrate entrepreneurship programs across the campus through the new Innovation and Business Engagement Hub.

“We want to integrate the different programs and organizations that support I&E on campus into one platform with well-defined points of entry. The pieces are already there,” Camps said. “CIED is already operating very interesting programs like Idea Hub that have established partnerships with different stakeholders on campus and in the community, so we already have a head-start.”

Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Lori Kletzer said Camps is well positioned to lead CIED, given his expertise as a researcher and his leadership as a college provost in helping to create student-focused innovation and entrepreneurship programs.

“Manel has developed a compelling vision for advancing the center’s work and connecting it to more programs and organizations across campus,” Kletzer said. “I am excited to see this work unfold in the year ahead.”

As a researcher, Camps runs a lab focused on the role of genetic variation in protein and genomic evolution, including technology development that has generated intellectual property. In his new role as CIED director, Camps also plans to build on his experiences over the past six years at Crown College, where he oversaw the development of a new educational program in I&E with the support of the UC Santa Cruz Foundation and generous gifts from Crown alumni. This program includes two survey courses introducing students to the basics of business plan design and market discovery, as well as a service-learning class.

In developing the program, Camps worked closely with lecturers Nada Miljkovic and Peter Koht, both UCSC alumni and successful entrepreneurs who are well connected with the local business community. A pipeline to a variety of internships was established through a partnership with GetVirtual, an organization co-founded by Nada Miljkovic and entrepreneur Toby Corey that helps small businesses build their online presence and weather the pandemic. Complementing Crown’s efforts in the area of entrepreneurship, Camps is also overseeing the development of a Center for Applied Values and Ethics in Advanced Technologies (CAVEAT), led by ethicist Linda Glenn.

Camps noted that, thanks to a partnership between the UC Office of the President and Blackstone, CIED has two entrepreneurs in residence, Mothusi Pahl and Andrea Carafa, who are invaluable to CIED’s mission. “They have been instrumental in driving much of the center’s impact-driven work, through the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps and the Idea Hub,” he said. “Our entrepreneurs in residence have also served as veritable linchpins connecting our student entrepreneurs with supporting networks of funding and expertise through initiatives such as CruzX, the Idea Hub, the Blackstone Launchpad, and the Civic Innovation Forum.”

Camps said he is committed to getting more students involved and encourages people to think more broadly about entrepreneurship. “I see entrepreneurship as a way to make an impact on society—it’s not just about technology and founding startup companies,” he said. “Students from all majors, identities, and backgrounds have a role to play in entrepreneurship, following their own passions, interests, and pathways. I want to build a program that is cross-disciplinary and accessible to all our students.”

Camps noted that supporting I&E education has an important diversity and inclusion dimension, as historically excluded students are at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing the social capital and support networks that are critical to succeed as entrepreneurs. “A well-scaffolded mentorship structure anchored in robust training programs will help open I&E to all students,” he said.

Camps also said he was encouraged by the support for CIED from the campus administration. “The administration sees how strategically important this is and is demonstrating its support for inclusive I&E,” he said.

A thriving I&E community on campus creates more opportunities for engagement with partners looking for ideas, solutions, and employees and organically improves the career development opportunities available for UCSC students both before and after graduation, he added. “Whether founding their own company, consulting, or working for a high-growth company, students are acquiring the tools and experience needed to create their own employment and pathways for career development,” Camps said. “CIED can be a catalyst for incorporating these ideas into a cross-disciplinary educational program to prepare students for these opportunities.”