StartBlue is an 8-month blue tech focused accelerator program launching in 2021 that is part of UC San Diego’s StartR accelerator program and offered in partnership by Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Rady School of Management. Since 2012, StartR has graduated 198 companies, and Scripps and Rady have worked together to support over 80 new environmental startups out of UC San Diego through entrepreneurship education and pitch competitions.

San Diego has a vibrant Blue Economy with unique oceanographic resources, a regional workforce of nearly 46,000 individuals and over 1,400 companies producing $14 billion of direct sales (2012 San Diego Maritime Industry Report). StartBlue expands the San Diego Regional Blue Economy by supporting startup formation, including but not limited to UC San Diego spin-outs. StartBlue provides its annual cohort of startups a curriculum, 1-1 mentorship, and facilitated access to potential partners, investment, and customers. Active participation of partners integrates startBlue into the pipeline of regional blue tech resources from formation to scale including The Port of San Diego and its Blue Economy Incubator, U.S. Coast Guard Blue Tech Center of Expertise, National Defense Industry Association, SDMAC, AIIM Partners, AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles, TMA BlueTech and its Blue Tech Incubator, CA Sea Grant, The Brink SBDC, and Ocean Visions.

The startBlue Method

StartBlue focuses on company formation bringing Scripps science and Rady entrepreneurship curriculum to teams that are in the midst of developing a new business around a science and engineering solution to an ocean challenge. September to December will feature 10, weekly classes with expert guest. Teams will get to know the San Diego Blue Economy through 12, biweekly site visits and workshops January through May. Workshops will focus on skill development core to garnering funds such as grant writing and pitching. Conferences, pitch competitions, and industry association memberships available to participants offer teams valuable visibility and connections. One-on-one industry mentorship provides custom guidance through the duration of the program. And, access to scientific expertise and technical resources help teams refine their minimum viable product.

StartBlue is offered at no cost to participants. Each team’s time and active participation are its most valuable assets and required.

Download Example Curriculum (pending)

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Meet the Team 

Gwen E. Nero, PhD | Director

Gwen Nero is Director of Corporate Affiliates, Business Development, Industry Outreach, and Innovation at UC San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography. At Scripps, Gwen created and directs the Scripps Corporate Alliance, a program that facilitates collaboration between Scripps and corporate members launched in 2017. She works closely with the UC San Diego Office of Innovation and Commercialization and innovation programs across the UC San Diego campus and the San Diego Region to support Scripps research commercialization, collaborations with industry, and talent recruitment of students and postdoctoral fellows to industry careers. Gwen represents Scripps on the boards of TMA BlueTech and Ocean Visions. Gwen completed a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Columbia University, taught for the NSF I-Corps program, led programs for life science innovation fund NYC TechConnect and incubator Harlem Biospace in New York City, and worked at Columbia Technology Ventures before joining UC San Diego and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Karen Jensen | Program Coordinator

Karen Jensen has 20 years of experience in program management in the non-profit and education sectors. She has been with UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management since 2015 where she has worked closely with student entrepreneurs to help them launch their startups. She has managed business plan competitions, including the Triton Innovation Challenge geared at encouraging researchers to take their commercially viable, environmentally-focused technologies out of the lab and bring them to market.


Vanessa Scott |UC San Diego Innovation Liaison

Vanessa Scott supports industry and innovation initiatives at Scripps Institution of Oceanography to connect the science and applied research to companies and assist the development and launch of ocean and climate focused startups.
Her background is in business development, marketing and communications in the biotech industry with over seventeen years of experience cultivating strong industry partnerships and facilitating opportunities for collaboration and growth. She also spent five years working in non-profit fundraising and marine conservation organizations. Vanessa completed a Masters in Advanced Studies in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography where she developed a business and marketing plan for Smartfin, an ocean-focused startup, to support the launch from lab to market.