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Tuesday, Sep 26, 2023

OC Insider: Science Center

It’s been a banner year for UCI’s tech and science programs, in terms of fundraising.

In February, a $35.5 million gift was announced from Vantiq co-founder and alumni Paul Butterworth and his wife, Jo, to support the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences. It was the largest-ever gift to UCI from alumni, the school said at the time.

Longtime supporters Henry and Susan Samueli just announced they are upping their investments to the school’s engineering school that carries his name by an additional $50 million; see Kevin Costelloe’s front-page story for more.

It’s also been a banner year for the fortunes of Broadcom chairman Samueli, whose roughly 2.2% stake in the chipmaking giant (Nasdaq: AVGO) was worth about $4.3 billion a year ago.

His stake is now down to 2.1%, but with Broadcom’s shares up almost 40% over the past 12 months and near an all-time high, the value of those shares are now closer to $7 billion.

Donald Bren’s substantial investment in another SoCal university’s tech work appears to be paying dividends.

Pasadena’s Caltech last week announced that a space solar power prototype launched into orbit in January “is operational and has demonstrated its ability to wirelessly transmit power in space and to beam detectable power to Earth for the first time.”

Caltech’s Space Solar Power Project ultimately aims to harvest solar power in space and transmit it to the Earth’s surface.

The experiment was developed by a Caltech team led by Ali Hajimiri, Bren Professor of Electrical Engineering and Medical Engineering.

Irvine Co. chairman Bren has committed over $100 million to support the project, which has been in the works for nearly a dozen years.

“The hard work and dedication of the brilliant scientists at Caltech have advanced our dream of providing the world with abundant, reliable and affordable power for the benefit of all humankind,” Bren said in a statement provided to the Business Journal.

The Von Karman line is the theoretical boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space, and is generally set at an altitude of 100 kilometers above sea level.

It’s named after late aerospace engineer Theodore von Karman, who co-founded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Von Karman Avenue is one of several streets in Irvine’s airport area—Michelson, Noyes, and Millikan, among others—named after scientists.

For an update on some of the many development plans along Von Karman Avenue, see Katie Murar’s page 16 story, part of this week’s Commercial Development Special Report.

Of local note, Tustin-based space tourism firm Virgin Galactic (NYSE: SPCE), which is nearing the start of commercial flights, will likely approach but not hit the somewhat arbitrary 100 km Karman line boundary; it’s reportedly aiming for about 50 miles above sea level, or 80 km. The firm founded by Richard Branson is based on Flight Way, just a few blocks off of Von Karman Avenue.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.

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