Richard Sudek, chief innovation officer and executive director at UCI Applied Innovation, will be the keynote speaker at the Innovator of the Year Awards event, being hosted by the Orange County Business Journal on Sept. 20. Steve Zylius / UCI

In a little more than a year, Richard Sudek has led the transformation of Applied Innovation from a bold idea into a grand reality. This is best illustrated by a walk through The Cove, its headquarters in University Research Park. The stunning, high-tech facility is more than an administrative home, more than a state-of-the-art meeting space and more than an incubator for startup companies. It’s designed to become the heart of Orange County’s vibrant entrepreneurial community, according to Sudek, the executive director. Here, he discusses Applied Innovation (formerly the Institute for Innovation) and The Cove, which hosted an open house Oct. 8 that drew together hundreds of campus and community members.

Q: What services does Applied Innovation provide?
A: There are three areas of focus. The first is that we manage all of UCI’s intellectual property and industry-sponsored research. Another focus is to support and stimulate entrepreneurship across campus at all levels – undergraduates and graduate students, postdocs and faculty. And then our third is to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Orange County and to be a great partner to the community.

Q: Is there a distinctive advantage to being in Orange County?
 We think Orange County is a sleeping giant in that there are a lot of startups and technology here; however, it’s all very fragmented. So there hasn’t been a concerted effort to connect all the different pieces, and that’s the role that UCI and Applied Innovation can play. We want to be a connector and facilitator to really accelerate entrepreneurship in the county.

Q: How have you been received on campus and in the business community?
 It’s been overwhelmingly positive. The deans and a number of faculty have worked with us to create new programs. We’re still in the early phases with this effort, and the business community – and specifically the startup community – has embraced what we’re doing.

Q: You hosted an open house Oct. 8 at Applied Innovation’s 31,000-square-foot home, The Cove. Can you explain the vision behind The Cove?
 Think of The Cove as a platform for the startup community in Orange County. And that platform is first an event space where we will have a lot of entrepreneurial activity for the community. But also we have built an ecosystem within the building. We have venture capital firms; we have incubators and accelerators. So what we’ve done is create a place where the community can gain access to different resources. And, in fact, we’ve already seen the resources in the building connect with each other and create new opportunities. We’re excited about that because we’re not fully operational, although we will be shortly as final tenants move in and activities start to increase.

Q: How can anyone interested get involved?
 The best way is to go to our website, get on our mailing list, look at our events page and plan to attend some of the events we’re having this fall.