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Marco Rolandi appointed faculty director of UCSC Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development

Marco Rolandi’s research focuses on biological and bioinspired materials and their use in bioelectronic devices, which integrate electronics with biological systems. (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)
Marco Rolandi’s research focuses on biological and bioinspired materials and their use in bioelectronic devices, which integrate electronics with biological systems. (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)
Tuesday, April 6, 2021
stephens@ucsc.edu (Tim Stephens)

UC Santa Cruz has appointed Marco Rolandi, professor and chair of the department of electrical and computer engineering, to serve as faculty director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development (CIED).

CIED promotes the development, research, and teaching of innovation and entrepreneurship at UC Santa Cruz and its partners. The center works with faculty, students, and the Santa Cruz community to support technological innovation and entrepreneurship through a variety of programs and activities.

“UCSC students have a strong desire to change the world for the better, and entrepreneurship can be a way to do so,” Rolandi said.

Rolandi is taking the helm from Sue Carter, professor of physics, who has led the center since 2015. During her tenure as director, Carter was instrumental in getting support for UCSC entrepreneurs through programs such as Blackstone LaunchPad, VentureWell, and the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps.

Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Lori Kletzer praised Carter’s leadership in creating new opportunities for students and expanding the campus’s entrepreneurial initiatives.

“Innovation springs from all corners of our university and, under Sue’s leadership, the center helped students from all disciplines develop their entrepreneurial skills,” Kletzer said. “She also worked tirelessly to create new opportunities for our inventors.”

Rolandi’s appointment is effective July 1, 2021. Kletzer said she selected Rolandi to lead the center because of his strong track record in translating groundbreaking research into compelling startups.

“Marco understands the world of startups and the world of universities,” Kletzer said. “He is well-positioned to build on the center’s past success and to create new collaborations that serve our campus community.”

Rolandi’s research focuses on biological and bioinspired materials and their use in bioelectronic devices, which integrate electronics with biological systems. In 2017, he cofounded Cruz Foam with John Felts, then a UCSC graduate student and now CEO of the Santa Cruz-based company. Cruz Foam makes environmentally friendly foam products using chitin, a material derived from shrimp shell waste.

Rolandi said he’s been impressed by the strong and supportive entrepreneurial environment in the Santa Cruz community and on campus.

“Everybody I met when we were trying to start Cruz Foam was really nice to work with,” he said. “There is a great feeling of support, both on campus and in the Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay community. People genuinely want everybody to succeed.”

Rolandi is also the scientific founder of KitoTech Medical, a Seattle-based medical device company launched in 2012 to develop a wound closure device. Then at the University of Washington, Seattle, Rolandi joined the faculty at UCSC’s Baskin School of Engineering in 2015. In 2017, he earned a Stanford LEAD Certificate in Corporate Innovation through a year-long executive education program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Rolandi’s current research projects include a major collaborative program funded by DARPA to develop a bioelectronic bandage to improve the healing of serious wounds. He earned his M.Sc. in physics at the University of London and Ph.D. in applied physics at Stanford University.

As director of CIED, Rolandi will partner with UCSC’s new Innovation and Business Engagement Hub, which will serve as the connection point for the campus’s innovation ecosystem and a consistent point of entry for potential industry partners and supporters.

“I look forward to working with all the current and future CIED partners and continuing to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay communities,” he said.