The University of California at Berkeley appointed professor Richard Lyons as the university’s first-ever chief innovation and entrepreneurship officer (CIEO).

In this new role, effective January 1, 2020, Lyons will work with campus partners to further develop and communicate Berkeley’s rich portfolio of innovation and entrepreneurship activities to the benefit of our students, faculty, staff, and startups.

He will also be responsible for developing strategies to raise the visibility of these activities internally and externally and to create high-value partnerships with stakeholders.

“If together we can improve the transformation of Berkeley’s prodigious intellectual product, across the whole campus, into greater societal benefit, then we will have achieved a great deal,” said Lyons, in a statement.

This is a big deal in some way. I’m a UC Berkeley grad and it always bugged me that rival Stanford University always outshone Berkeley and other schools for fostering innovation and producing startups from Hewlett-Packard to Google. This was in spite of the fact that Cal had a lot of incredible talent as well and that Stanford had a really silly marching band.

I recently attended a dinner in Mountain View — hosted by Guitar Hero co-creator Charles Huang and Lilian Qian. It was attended by UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and other luminaries in the tech and academic world. And they were clearly thinking about the same thing. The university should be the catalyst for innovation, Christ argued, and the school was interested in exploring ways to structure itself for better innovation in fields such as space sciences.

Berkeley is playing catch-up, as you could argue that Stanford’s first chief innovation officer, even if he didn’t have the title, was Fred Terman, the engineering professor who helped HP get off the ground in 1937 and later helped create the Stanford Industrial Park in 1951. That helped sow the seeds for Silicon Valley.

Lyons, a professor of Economics and of finance, also served as Berkeley’s dean of the Haas School of Business. He held the role for eleven years, during which time he devoted his energy, enthusiasm, and collaborative spirit to advancing the Haas School’s and the campus’ larger innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Lyons also served as co-chair of the recent campus-wide Strategic Planning process and served previously as a member of the Academic Senate’s Divisional Council.

University of California Berkeley

Above: University of California Berkeley

Image Credit: Jay Cross

Among his many accomplishments as Dean, he helped launch the Management, Entrepreneurship, & Technology (M.E.T.) dual-degree program in partnership with the College of Engineering. He also initiated the Biology + Business dual degree program with Molecular & Cell Biology and revitalized the Berkeley-Haas Entrepreneurship Program (BHEP). In collaboration with leadership in the Office of Research and College of Engineering, Lyons helped the campus to launch the Berkeley SkyDeck startup accelerator in 2012 and served on its Governing Board.

He was selected for the CIEO position through a rigorous recruitment and selection process that attracted several hundred top-notch applications from all over the world. Throughout the process, Lyons stood out as a true visionary, a strategic leader and an ecosystem evangelist who could understand and activate the untapped potential of Berkeley’s innovation and entrepreneurship landscape.

A Cal Bear, Lyons, first came to Berkeley to pursue his Bachelor of Science in Business and Finance. He later earned his doctorate in economics from MIT. His most recent research explores how leaders drive innovation and set behavioral norms and culture.

As dean of Haas, he anchored the culture of Berkeley Haas with four defining principles: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Students Always, and Beyond Yourself, which have served to differentiate Berkeley Haas from its peers, and shape its students as they learn to become innovative leaders of the future. Impressively, Lyons also brought in eight of the 10 largest philanthropic gifts in the school’s history.

Lyons will step into a part-time, transitional role as faculty assistant to the vice chancellor for research for innovation and entrepreneurship, effective immediately through December 31, 2019, while he fulfills a fall semester teaching commitment. In this role, he will begin reaching out to campus and external stakeholders to initiate conversations and partnerships that he will continue developing when he officially assumes the role of CIEO, effective January 1, 2020.

The creation of the job was one of several recommendations to come from the “Entrepreneurship at Berkeley” report — a year-long study commissioned by former Vice Chancellor for Research Paul Alivisatos to examine how UC Berkeley’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem could better serve its community.

Above: Sather Gate at UC Berkeley

Image Credit: Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

Lyons will work with campus partners to set a strategic focus for Berkeley’s innovation and entrepreneurship pipeline, foster entrepreneurship among the campus’s diverse constituencies, provide direction for work related to Berkeley’s intellectual property and coordinate activities in support of entrepreneurship among the schools, colleges, institutes and groups.

“This is a game changer for Berkeley,” said vice chancellor for research Randy Katz, to whom Lyons will report, in a statement. “Rich is a visionary and an evangelist in all things innovation and entrepreneurship. He is the one person who can simultaneously raise our external visibility, while accelerating how we embed innovation and entrepreneurship in our institutional DNA. I am thrilled he has accepted this key leadership role.”

Despite what I said about Stanford outdoing Cal, Berkeley students, professors and alumni have founded more than 2,000 companies, including household names such as Intel, Apple, Tesla, Gap, AIG and Autodesk. In May 2019, Crunchbase ranked Berkeley the world’s top public school for business and tech startups that attract early stage funding.

”Rich is highly respected in the business and policy worlds and has broad connections in Silicon Valley and beyond,” says Carol Mimura, assistant vice chancellor for Intellectual Property & Industry Research Alliances (IPIRA). “Drawing on his multiple talents — as a convener, fundraiser and an inclusive leader — Rich will propel Berkeley’s innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives to new heights and in new directions.”

Go Bears.