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CONNECT was founded by UC San Diego as an internal department when the City of San Diego was at a crossroads. Regional leaders were searching for a path to economic renewal and sustained growth; innovative high-tech and life sciences companies, such as Cubic Corporation, Linkabit (predecessor of Qualcomm), SAIC, and Hybritech, were in the early stages of development; and the Torrey Pines Mesa was a growing hotbed of research. Amidst this convergence of factors UC San Diego, in partnership with the San Diego Regional EDC and private sector businesses, recognized this as an opportunity to establish an organization to transform San Diego’s growing research capabilities into an economic driver to increase the prosperity of the region. Thus, in 1985-1986, CONNECT, one of the nation’s first start-up accelerators, was born.

In 2005, to better serve the vast and growing research community, CONNECT spun-out of UC San Diego and to form a bifurcated organization - the CONNECT Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation, and the CONNECT Association, a 501(c)(6) trade organization. As a result, CONNECT has broadened its mandate to include public advocacy work on behalf of entrepreneurs and innovators through the Association.

Core to CONNECT’s growth and development is a culture of collaboration, fostered by CONNECT’s first director, Bill Otterson. Over the last thirty years CONNECT has assisted developing groups around specific innovation clusters and, as they become large and deep enough, spun them out as stand-alone organizations. CONNECT has assisted in fostering many organizations in San Diego over the years including BIOCOM, The San Diego Telecom Council (known today as EvoNexus/CommNexus), Athena San Diego, CleanTECH San Diego, The Wireless Life Sciences Alliance, and San Diego Sport Innovators (SDSI). CONNECT has also been recognized as a breakthrough organization by The New York Times, as well as Inc., Time, and Entrepreneur magazines.


CONNECT has remained central to the growth of the innovation economy in San Diego since its inception 30 years ago. CONNECT lives out its mission, continuing our commitment to the success of the technology and life sciences companies, through CONNECT 3.0. CONNECT 3.0 is the next iteration of programming to support innovation thriving companies throughout entire lifecycle. Our commitment to growing the San Diego innovation economy is steadfast because we’re not just changing San Diego, we’re changing the world.