In the month since UC Berkeley announced unprecedented partnership with NASA’s Ames Research Center to establish a research park and campus outpost at Moffett Field on the edge of Silicon Valley, the phones haven’t stopped ringing.
The campus receives eight to 10 calls a day, not only from enthusiastic faculty, staff, students and alumni, but also from venture capitalists, startups, NGOs and individuals wanting to contribute to make this project a reality.
Three project leaders – Chancellor Carol Christ, Moffett Field Project Founder and Executive Director Darek DeFreece, and Moffett Field Program Development Associate Provost Alexandre Bayen – met during a virtual event on November 17 to discuss the transformational promise of the project. Berkeley Space Center.
Dan Mogulof, assistant vice chancellor for executive communications in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs, moderates a Nov. 17 conversation with Chancellor Carol Christ and two individuals who led the Moffett Field project: Darek DeFreece, project director, and Alexandre Bayen, associate vice-president. for program development.
“The time was right,” DeFreece said. “We’re sort of in the zeitgeist with the romance of space, but there’s also a lot of innovation and entrepreneurship around this topic. And it’s not about space or “Aerospace in general, it’s everything from quantum computing to robotics to drone technology to advanced aviation to energy. We’re at a certain point where our society is truly rewarding people who take risks.
NASA has been looking for a risk-taking partner at the Moffett Field site in Mountain View for many years, but the latest effort to develop a UC outpost there, led by UC Santa Cruz, failed. In 2019, then-UC President Janet Napolitano asked Christ if Berkeley was interested in developing land at Moffett Field for a research park and academic programs.
“I thought it was an incredibly intriguing opportunity,” Christ said. “So I asked the campus and got a resounding ‘Yes!’”
Gordon Rausser, namesake of the Rausser College of Natural Resources, former dean of the college and entrepreneur in his own right, chaired a campus committee to examine prospects for expanding Berkeley’s footprint in Silicon Valley. Christ and others envisioned an academic partnership like the one that led to the blossoming of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
DeFreece came on board, got people on campus excited about the project, and found a developer, SKS Partners, to join Berkeley in developing the research park as a collaborative center, both academic and research , with industry and the federal government.
“Similar to LBNL, we are creating an ecosystem where we can co-locate UC Berkeley teams, private sector teams, and NASA teams around a variety of topics that go well beyond space ; which include aviation, quantum computing, planetary science, biology, health and many others,” Bayen said.
Christ noted that the campus’ financial investment in the project is negligible. The financial risk is being taken by SKS, which will bring in partners to expand the 36-acre site to approximately 1.4 million square feet.
“The risk is borne by SKS’s partners,” Christ said. “We provide access to magnificent land and our reputation.”
Revenue from these leases will support on-campus research and on-site educational programs, potentially one day supporting up to 300 students in labs, internships and other learning environments. Now that the NASA partnership agreement is signed, the campus is seeking partners and ideas that serve UC’s core missions: teaching, research and service.
“We have a general container for this project, 36 acres, we have a design that I love for the campus, but now we have to work hard to figure out what goes in these buildings and what are the best ways to do it. can use this incredible resource that has come to the Berkeley campus to benefit the Berkeley campus,” Christ added. “It’s definitely time for ideas.”