By Irene Lacher 11/01/2011
If one were to take the temperature of Pasadena’s business climate, clearly the patient has seen better days, like most of the world. Still, Pasadena has something special up its sleeve that may help spur economic growth down the line — Caltech.
Yes, of course, Caltech has been around for more than a century, but its capacity to help incubate new technology for business is greater than ever — and it’s not going unnoticed. Times Higher Education magazine in London last month named the school the world’s top university, edging past Harvard for the first time. What tipped the scales for Caltech this year were “marginally better scores for ‘research — volume, income and reputation,’ research influence and the income it attracts from industry,” according to Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. “With differentials so slight, a simple factor plays a decisive role in determining rank order: money.”
Oh, that old thing. Caltech has worked hard to attract research funding from business. The university also announced last month that it was launching its Corporate Partners Program with a $10 million gift from the Dow Chemical Company and the Gordon and Betty Moore Matching Program (founded by Intel Corp.’s chairman emeritus and his wife) to tackle renewable energy and technology. A Caltech spokesperson said the partnership is specifically designed to nurture “the possibility of creating licensable technologies and start-ups.” That may help Pasadena’s own economy keep pace with the quickly evolving 21st century — if the ripple effect doesn’t ripple too far afield.
In this issue we look at how well Pasadena Inc. is adapting to the winds of change. Noela Hueso talks to Economic Development Manager Eric Duyshart about the state of the city, why Pasadena hasn’t reaped more of Caltech’s start-up windfalls in the past and what the city is doing to attract businesses of tomorrow. Bettijane Levine introduces you to another remarkable fount of innovation here — Idealab and its founder, Bill Gross. Richard Horgan sketches an eclectic group of Pasadena companies embracing goods, services or management styles that weren’t even around a generation ago. And B.J. Lewis profiles a local boutique that uses Internet technology to deliver good old-fashioned personalized service. — Irene Lacher