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UCR initiative calls for investment in the future of Riverside innovation

A vision for Riverside’s economic future grows as startups get in line for a University of California, Riverside (UCR) initiative aimed at creating jobs focused on sustainability.

Opportunities to Advance Sustainability, Innovation, and Social Inclusion (OASIS), is UCR’s newest regional economic initiative. It leverages job creation and community involvement by attracting startup companies to the area that specialize in agricultural tech, natural resource management, sustainability and eco-friendly logistics.

While still in the beginning phases of implementation and without a physical research facility, OASIS leaders say some startups are in the pipeline to access OASIS resources like investor connections and outdoor research space.

Dr. Rosibel Ochoa, associate vice chancellor of the Office of Technology Partnerships at UCR, said OASIS is only in the initial stages of designing a clean-tech laboratory.

“It doesn’t mean you can’t have projects associated with OASIS in Coachella Valley or Salton Sea for example,” she said. “This region is so large and there are so many opportunities.”

These areas are ideal for companies in the area of logistics and transportation, according to Ochoa. “Companies who want to test their electric vehicles in our region can use these spaces. We’re looking for investors in that area now.”

Those who utilize the OASIS program are also connected to business mentorship, federal grant and private investment opportunities.

One such startup is Terra City Farms, an agricultural startup that wants to make Riverside its base. Its founders aim to build a network of hydroponic, shipping-container farms that minimize the distance between a “food desert” community and its access to fresh food options.

Terra City Farms is one of the portfolio companies that represents the pipeline of innovative startups that will soon be part of the OASIS incubator.

“Riverside is one of the fastest if not the fastest growing region in the country and it has been identified as highly entrepreneurial and also the crossroads of many environmental pressures,” Ochoa said.

She continued that what OASIS is looking for is an opportunity to show investors Riverside is the region these companies should utilize to facilitate their innovation.

As a link between their initiative and potential investment in Riverside’s clean-tech future, OASIS leadership points down the street from UCR’s campus to the California Air Resources Board headquarters (CARB).

In her 2021 State of the City Address, Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson spoke to the international recognition and workforce development additions like CARB would bring to the city.

“The synergy that will be created between the California Air Resources Board and UC Riverside’s OASIS initiative will reignite the spark that was started by earlier clean and green tech companies like SolarMax and SunSpark that settled in Riverside some years ago,” Lock Dawson said in an email yesterday.

The completion of the CARB headquarters building project on Iowa Avenue is expected to finish this spring. The nearly 380,000 square-foot facility will be one of the largest and most advanced vehicle emissions testing and research facilities in the world.

“OASIS seeks to be the catalyst that brings all these existing components together and takes them to the next level by creating a desirable ecosystem for what more we have to come,” Lock Dawson said. “As I said during my State of the City Address, we are on the cusp a new job sector launching in Riverside—a game changer that I am fully committed to bring to fruition.”