News & Media

How UCLA is Driving Innovation and Economic Prosperity

By Gene Block

Higher education detractors sometimes cast universities as “Ivory Towers” where academics pontificate and theorize, disconnected from the issues affecting the real world.

Chancellor Gene Block – UCLA

UCLA, for one, is exactly the opposite of this.

With public service as a cornerstone of our mission, for more than one hundred years we have been engaging with and addressing issues affecting the City and County of Los Angeles, the State of California, and the world. I am deeply grateful that the APLU has recognized UCLA’s long legacy of contributions to the common good with its Innovation and Economic Prosperity designation.

One of the principal ways we’ve contributed to our region is by cultivating a talented workforce. UCLA educates tens of thousands of graduates each year, many of whom stay in Southern California and power its knowledge and creative economy. UCLA is also the fourth-largest employer in the county, and an institution that invests in its workers (we committed to no COVID-19 related-layoffs during the pandemic, and in areas like housing and dining without available work, offered re-training and reassignment at the same level of pay). We have special programs to lift up those who have been underrepresented in certain industries; UCLA Women in Tech is a collaborative campus community of students and employees advocating for change for women working in the tech fields.

UCLA also heavily supports entrepreneurship, helping founders from all backgrounds go on to start innovative companies that create jobs and contribute to the economy. In 10 years, Startup UCLA has supported more than 3,000 students, faculty, alumni and staff entrepreneurs, helping to raise $100+ million in funding and bringing more than 1,100 business ventures to life.

UCLA’s impact is additionally felt through a wide array of partnerships across sectors. As one example, the Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute (CESMII) is a federal government-supported public-private partnership that is enabling smart manufacturing to deliver real-time business improvements in U.S. manufacturing.

UCLA also works with the city and county of Los Angeles to advance solutions on pressing issues. The Howard and Irene Levine Program in Housing and Social Responsibility tackles a particularly critical one: affordable housing policy and the needs of low-income households. On another front, Million Dollar Hoods researches, documents and maps the fiscal and human costs of incarceration in L.A. and beyond. The program’s work helps local advocates and activists in the push for reform.

As an institution committed to learning, one other way UCLA supports our region is by contributing to education in our communities at all levels. The UCLA Center for Community Schooling is a campus-wide initiative to advance K-12 university-assisted community schooling: RFK UCLA Community School (grades K-12) and Mann UCLA Community School (grades 6-12) are part of the L.A. Unified School District, and are seen by lawmakers as models for the state to emulate.

Working for the public good is UCLA’s mandate, one that stretches back to our founding in 1919. We are proud to receive the IEP designation, which is a recognition of all that we do. It is also a commission to do even more.

  • Commission on Innovation, Competitiveness, & Economic Prosperity
  • Economic Development & Community Engagement
  • IEP

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