After nearly two years in the works, Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) opened a manufacturing lab in their new 4,100-square-foot downtown space, called the HotHouse Annex.
The goal of the new lab is to give entrepreneurs resources to create product prototypes and early-stage manufacturing.
Executive director of the CIE Tod Nelson said he has been advocating for the new development for the past couple of years.
“It’s really difficult to manufacture in [San Luis Obispo],” Nelson said. “We have a lot of people in our program now who are actually manufacturing product, and we needed a space for them to do this off campus.”
CIE gives students and community members the resources and tools to cultivate economic and social value in their field. This can look like starting a new business or just bringing innovation and entrepreneurial spirit into their field of choice. The HotHouse is a community space to bring student and community members’ ideas to life. The manufacturing lab will be an addition to the HotHouse space.
“We outfitted it with manufacturing space, 3D printers, a testing laboratory — all of the things you need to prototype and manufacture your first few thousand products,” Nelson said.
The lab was funded by a federal grant of $500,000 from the Economic Development Agency (EDA). Nelson wrote the proposal for the grant and for the next three years, the money will be used to develop and facilitate the growth of the new lab.
Nelson said he sees this new addition, in part, as a way to combat the jobs that will be lost when Diablo Canyon closes in the near future.
“We’re gonna lose 1,500 head of household jobs,” Nelson said. “That’s a significant blow to the economy. We know its coming. We’ve got five or six years to plan for the closure of Diablo. It’s such an unknown, and we really believe that through activities at the HotHouse and the CIE that we can help offset the loss of those jobs”.
Like many fields, the start-up industry is ever changing and the manufacturing lab is an example of Cal Poly keeping up with those changes.
“More than half of the companies that come into our summer accelerator or our incubator program are building tangible products,” Nelson said. “It’s not just software and apps anymore”.
Although a few people have already begun work in the new lab, the grand opening is planned for Feb. 21.
“We’re always looking to expand our services. We have a co-working program that’s at 100% capacity so we’re always looking to expand that space,” Nelson said. “We don’t know any specifics but we’re excited about the possibilities.”