Industry & Economy

Caltech's extraordinary scientists and engineers focus on the most difficult scientific and societal problems, forging breakthroughs, improving lives, and launching new fields, technologies, and industries.

Innovation: Past, Present, and Future

Groundbreaking discoveries by Caltech researchers throughout the Institute's history have led directly to social and economic improvements. Here are just a few examples:

  • Clair Patterson's research on lead pollution prompted pollution controls in the auto industry.
  • Nobel laureate Linus Pauling's theories of how atoms bond to one another to make molecules became the basis of modern pharmaceutical research and development.
  • Carver Mead (BS '56, MS '57, PhD '60) discovered scaling laws for very-large-scale-integration technology and developed methods that have made possible many of the innovative integrated-circuit designs used in today's consumer electronics.
  • Lee Hood (BS '60, PhD '68) developed several instruments, including the DNA sequencer, which enabled the mapping of the human genome.

Current research being done on campus is laying the groundwork for the inventions and the innovations of the future. Caltech scientists and engineers are

  • Developing novel approaches to attacking cancer cells, preventing HIV, and treating or neutralizing numerous other diseases.
  • Improving the generation of affordable, efficient, and abundant forms of sustainable energy, such as solar and wind energy, and energy from biofuels.
  • Creating neural prosthetics that one day may help paralyzed people walk and handle objects, and allow blind people to see.
  • Building low-cost medical diagnostic devices for use in developing countries.

Leading in Discovery

Research Partnerships

Caltech faculty members collaborate with major corporations in aerospace, energy, information-technology, medical, pharmaceutical, and other industries to advance both basic research and cutting-edge technology in those fields. Among those partnerships are

  • Caltech's Corporate Partners Program, which helps bring science and technology breakthroughs directly to the industries and people that can apply them.
  • A Bioengineering Research Program established at the Institute in 2009, through which Caltech and the international health-care company Sanofi now collaborate on developing human-health therapeutic and diagnostic solutions.
  • The Caltech Entrepreneurs Forum, which encourages technology-based entrepreneurship ventures by offering advice, support, education, and networking opportunities.
  • Collaborative projects between Caltech and City of Hope, UCLA, UCSF, USC, and other institutions, all of which have a common goal of propelling Caltech's biomedical breakthroughs from the lab to the clinic.

An Entrepreneurial Engine

Since the Office of Technology Transfer was founded in 1995, Caltech faculty members have started more than 80 companies in a broad range of fields, including

  • Advanced materials
  • Biomedicine
  • Chemistry
  • Computer and network technology
  • Energy
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Telecommunications

Caltech alumni, too, have founded numerous influential companies. Some of these include

  • Applied Semantics (acquired by Google in 2003) — Gilad Elbaz, BS '91
  • Beckman Instruments — Arnold Beckman, PhD '28
  • DirecTV — Eddy Hartenstein, MS '74
  • Factual — Gilad Elbaz, BS '91
  • Idealab — William Gross, BS '81
  • Intel — Gordon Moore, PhD '54
  • Quora — Adam D'Angelo, BS '06
  • Trimble Navigation — Charles Trimble, BS '63, MS '64
  • TRW — Simon Ramo, PhD '36
  • Varitronix — York Liao, BS '67

Stimulating the Economy

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, managed by Caltech for NASA, is a close partner in innovation; together, Caltech and JPL are also major contributors to the local economy, and Pasadena's largest employer. In FY 2011, JPL subcontracted $593 million in projects to companies and organizations in 48 states and Washington, D.C.

In addition, JPL played a key role in the development of such widespread technologies and products as

  • The "camera on a chip"
  • Robot-assisted microsurgery
  • Electric vehicles
  • Carbon-composite materials