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History Of Connect

The Connect model and philosophy was founded by University of California San Diego (UCSD) in 1985 and is recognised as best practice with a mission that:

“Connect is the globally recognised public benefit organisation fostering entrepreneurship in the San Diego region by catalyzing, accelerating and supporting the goals of the most promising technology and life science businesses”.

Many regions around the World are now recognizing the power of collaboration to accelerate the communications and partnerships so critical to innovation and cluster growth.

In response there are now Connect organisations in New Zealand, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Jordan, Estonia, Latvia, Taiwan, Mexico, Japan, Scotland, England with many others at an embryonic stage.  These organisations and others with a similar mission are linked by Global Connect in an informal international network.

They vary widely in size, governance, funding and programming, but all share a mission to help entrepreneurs and build innovation capacity in their regions.  They all support high growth businesses via the collective involvement of the business community, Universities and their alumni, professional service providers and investors.

Lord Sainsbury's Review:

"The Connect scheme was set up in 1985 by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in close collaboration with local business to meet the varying needs of San Diego entrepreneurs at all stages of their business life cycles and growth. Connect is now regarded as a highly successful regional programme, linking high-technology entrepreneurs with the resources they need for success: technology, money, markets, management, partners and support services. The programme, which is entirely self-supporting, has built up a network of business and university resources, creating an energetic, resource-rich, environment for honing ideas, pursuing personal growth and professional development, and exploring innovation business opportunities. Since its inception, Connect has assisted more than 800 technology companies.

Springboard, Connect's flagship programme, assists technology-based companies and entrepreneurs in refining their business and financial strategies through a group mentoring process. It assists with the development of business plans and business presentations, and provides a forum in which the entrepreneurs can present their refined business model before a group of business, marketing and management experts. The scheme's success stems from its holistic approach, the rang of expertise it provides and the fact that "none of us are as smart as all of us". Mentoring is provided by top-level CEOs who volunteer their services. Since its inception, Sprinboard has assisted over 250 technology companies in starting and funding their operations. These companies have raised over $600 million in early/seed-stage investment and 150 are still in business.

The critical success factors of Connect in San Diego include:

  • building out of academic research excellence within a university, acting in partnership with the region;
  • investing in and encouraging the infrastructure to allow companies to grow;
  • enlisting early support and involvement from the private sector;
  • avoiding a prescriptive focus on one or two existing sectors; new ones will emerge around research excellence and international innovation;
  • scanning for and supporting the potential champions (companies and individuals) who have the potential to drive a city/region's economic change;
  • understanding that companies are attracted to hot spots where customers, competitors and research excellence are located; a cluster cannot be created in a vacuum.

Drawing on the success of the Connect scheme in San Diego, RDA's should support services for high-technology entrepreneurs around our world-class universities similar to the Connect service within the BSSP framework."