Much of the research sponsored by industry at QI is carried out under Contracts and Grants, which on average bring in $1.25 million annually. That is based on research sponsored by industry (not including grants from NSF, NIH and other federal or state funding agencies). The institute has received large grants from Comhear (an early tenant of the QIIS incubator), Google, Honda, Toyota and Volkswagen, among others. Previously, between 2001 and 2013, Ericsson was the second-largest industry partner (after Qualcomm), providing more than $12 million in funding over that period. The funds went to sponsored research by UC San Diego faculty affiliated with Calit2, although a portion of the total has paid for two endowed chairs and two Ericsson Distinguished Scholars – Geoffrey Voelker and the late Rene Cruz. (For more on Ericsson, see Philanthropic Support below). Sponsored research projects typically involve prior negotiation of specific research to be undertaken by UC San Diego faculty or QI technical personnel (or both). This type of research can be particularly attractive to companies, when programs such as the UC Discovery Grant program could match a portion of what the company provides, effectively allowing industry to offset as much as half of the total cost of sponsored research project (Note: The UC Discovery Grant program ended in 2013).
All services, facilities and resources that QI makes available to internal UC San Diego partners are also available for use by external customers, including corporations, national labs, and residents of the QI Innovation Space incubator. In some cases, QI personnel may carry out technical activities, including prototyping and proofs of concept, on behalf of the company in question under a service agreement (whereas lab facilities are also open to users from industry on a recharge basis, where company personnel are given access to work in the lab on an hourly basis; see Facilities Usage below). Service agreements also allow corporations to offload technical work to be done by QI personnel using equipment and facilities that are also used by academic groups, notably:
Nano3 Nanofabrication Cleanroom Facility: By far the largest number of companies with service agreements in QI are the more than 100 companies using the Nano3 facility in recent year. The facility generates nearly $1 million a year in fees from external industry users (equivalent to more than 44,000 hours of use over five years). Technical personnel in this 15,000sf facility are available to operate equipment in Nano3’s Class 100 and Class 1000 cleanrooms, and they perform technical work on a contractual basis under service agreements (in addition to training and admitting corporate researchers to use Nano3 equipment themselves). Nano3’s users are primarily small- or medium-sized companies unable to afford the capital investment in cutting-edge equipment of their own, such as for electron-beam lithography. In late 2015, the NSF awarded $5.5 million (over five years) to make QI a new hub in the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI). The express goal of the NNCI grant is to allow Nano3 to serve small- and medium-sized businesses, which could mean doubling user hours and achieving a 50-50 balance between industry and academic user communities.
Other service agreements: While Nano3 accounts for the bulk of service agreement income, other labs and personnel in Atkinson Hall also do work under service agreements totaling nearly $250,000 annually. Service agreements, for example, have underwritten projects in the:
Photonic Systems Laboratory: Personnel in this 2,000sf, telecom-class facility support one-of-a-kind, high-capacity testbeds, featuring equipment acquired from Bell Labs, Cisco Systems, Sumitomo, Sun Microsystems, IBM and other companies. Recent service agreements of the lab include those with companies such as RAM Photonics (prior to its admission into QIIS incubator).
Chip-Scale Photonics Testing Facility: Originally built with equipment provided by Agilent Technologies and Oracle, the Chip-Scale facility’s personnel have tested nanophotonic devices such as nanolasers and low-loss silicon photonic waveguide devices. The facility aims for seamless integration of electronics with photonic circuits via CMOS-compatible processes, and the testing facility is linked via high-speed networking to other labs and data centers in Atkinson Hall (and elsewhere on campus).
Wireless Systems and Engineering: This group builds and tests communication systems, including mobile Android-based systems, Bluetooth/Zigbee/WiFi sensor networks, mesh networks, software-defined networking, FPGA-based testbeds etc.
Mobile Applications: This group undertakes R&D services for next-generation mobile applications (client/server) for iOS and Android platforms. Past customers include companies in transportation, health care/telemedicine, social networking, crowdsourcing, etc.
USING QI FACILITIES
The institute’s specialized facilities are also accessible to industry researchers under service agreements and on a fee-for-use basis (typically via hourly recharge). A few examples:
Prototyping Facility: This facility offers dedicated design consulting services to help companies and academic researchers design and build physical prototypes of a wide variety of systems. Existing customers include industry partners and startups seeking to build proof-of-concept systems.
Design Studio: This ‘maker’ space offers a shared work environment and creative space for corporate users, educators and student groups to design or explore embedded systems.
Circuits Labs: This facility enables design, assembly and testing of new wireless devices, techniques and systems. Users can access the Millimeter-Wave Lab (for frequencies from 20MHz to 170GHz), Power Amplifier Lab (200mW-2000W), Base-Station Lab (over-the-air cellular with experimental licenses for research use), and the Antenna-Garden Lab (with RF and Gigabit Ethernet connections).
For a complete list of Qualcomm Institute facilities available for use by industry on a fee-for-use or fee-for-service basis, including event spaces, visit the Services section of this website.
QI receives gifts from industry totaling more than $2.5 million per year (based on gifts over the past five years).
Qualcomm Inc. remains QI’s largest corporate donor. The company and its Qualcomm Foundation have contributed well over $26 million to the institute since its creation in 2000. Qualcomm’s charitable gifts have through Calit2/QI support five endowed chairs for:
- Four professors in the Jacobs School of Engineering: QI Director Ramesh Rao and fellow ECE Prof. Alon Orlitsky, as well as CSE’s Rajesh Gupta and YY Zhou; and
- One chair held by School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) Dean Peter Cowhey.
Qualcomm also earmarked some of its earliest support for graduate fellowships, but for the most part, it has donated funds to be used at the discretion of the QI director and institute leadership.
Note: The UC San Diego Division of Calit2 was named the Qualcomm Institute in April 2013 to recognize Qualcomm’s ongoing philanthropic support for the institute and its interdisciplinary agenda on the UC San Diego campus. Read the original announcement.
The second-largest donor to the institute, Ericsson, earmarked a smaller portion of its support as charitable donations to create the Ericsson Endowed Chair in Wireless Communications Access Techniques (held by ECE Prof. Laurence Milstein) and the Ericsson Endowed Chair in Wireless Access Networks (held by ECE Prof. Bhaskar Rao). In 2007, the industry partner also named CSE Prof. Geoffrey Voelker and the late ECE Prof. Rene Cruz to be Ericsson Distinguished Scholars.
Between 2011 and 2015, Qualcomm and Ericsson account for the bulk of QI’s industry support. Even though 50 companies donated provided funding in that period, only four organizations provided at least $750,000 each to the institute. In addition to Qualcomm and Ericsson, the others were Pacific Interface and the Korea Electronics Technology Institute.
ACCESS TO STUDENTS
Partnerships with QI allow companies to engage with students on many fronts to:
- Vet them for summer internships or career employment,
- Develop hardware or software,
- Identify emerging markets; and to
- Test pre-commercial products and systems in a real-world campus setting, and so on.
Industry partners also receive invitations to attend seminars and conferences organized by the institute and its participating research centers and faculty affiliates. The talks also provide networking opportunities with faculty and student attendees. In connection with the new QIIS facility (see Startups), the institute has also begun to organize networking events for students with industry and other members of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in San Diego, including representatives of venture capital, incubators, UCSD’s Tech Transfer Office and other relevant community members. The institute also organizes or hosts hackathons, including the Big Pixel Hackathon (May 2015) and Startup UC San Diego, a “hackathon for student startups” (the latter inaugural event taking place May 13-14, 2016). The top three winners of the competition will be offered space to get their startups off the ground in the QIIS space or elsewhere in Atkinson Hall.
PARTNERING ON SBIR/STTR
Industry partners in small-to-medium-sized businesses are welcome to partner with the Qualcomm Institute on federal grants reserved specifically for small businesses that engage in R&D that has a strong potential for commercialization. Companies often seek out expertise at research universities, which are eligible to partner on the so-called Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and/or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Eleven funding agencies have SBIR programs (including NSF and the Department of Health and Human Services), and five have STTR programs (including NSF and NIH). Both are coordinated by the Small Business Administration to help certain small businesses conduct research and development, with 2.8% of federal agencies’ R&D budgets earmarked to support such programs. The major difference between SBIR and STTR is the status of the Principal Investigator: SBIR PIs must be primarily employed with the relevant small business, whereas STTR PIs may be employed either in the small business or the non-profit research institution. MaXentric Technologies, whose chief technology officer is a former engineer in the Qualcomm Institute, is one company that partnered with QI on an SBIR led by a MaXentric engineer.