Paul Simonds, Southern California Gas Company; Demea Metcalf, Irvine Chamber of Commerce; Lisa Woolery, Wells Fargo; Wendy Haase, Destination Irvine; Sam Murray, Managease, Inc.; Kate Klimow, Assistant Vice Chancellor, University of California, Irvine; Linda DiMario, Destination Irvine; Tallia Hart, Irvine Chamber of Commerce; Dan Han, Ignite Payments Agape; Terry Winkler, DI blogger; Bruce Greenberg, The GDR Group

"Oh, wow!" Bruce Greenberg exclaimed after seeing "Innovation Rocks!" for the first time.  He and other members of the Irvine Chamber of Commerce got their first look at the freshly painted Destination Irvine Rose Parade float last Wednesday at Phoenix Decorating Company in Pasadena.  His reaction reflected that of the other folks present, but how does a float about innovation relate to the innovation happening in Irvine every day?  We put that question to Matt Bailey, Chief Collaboration Strategist for UCI Applied Innovation at The Cove and also found out a bit about the new space for innovative collaboration at UCI.

Linda DiMario and Chris Lofthouse

At the Rose Palace float barn, Chris Lofthouse, President/CEO of Phoenix, told the Irvine group, "You've seen it in an 8x10 rendering.  It's going to be pretty exciting in three dimensions."  And it was.  "It's spectacular," Linda DiMario said.  "It brings the "Innovation Rocks!" theme to life."  

Though most of the paint on the whimsical float is in bold colors, fine detail is apparent in the fine lines for the pages of the books and the feathering of colors on the flowers.  Indicating where to put the colorful flowers and dry materials is one of the reasons floats are painted so carefully.  "Innovation Rocks!" is pretty well done until December, when the botanical materials will be applied. 

As Sam Murray enthused, "I think it's huge and incredibly tall!  The fact that it's painted now, you can see how the flowers go on." 

Innovation Rocks long view

Peter the Anteater, mascot of UCI, towers over the float to a height of nearly 17 feet with lovely blue fur and a white lab coat.  The coiled tubes on the side rise higher than that and must be folded down to leave the barn and later go under the 210 overpass. 

 "We love Peter the Anteater and are awful proud that the float is telling the world how great Irvine is," Kate Klimow said.  "It's a great ambassador for UCI."  Noting that 2015 is UCI's 50th anniversary year, she said, "It's great to share the party with the world."

With its strong theme of science and invention, "Innovation Rocks!" reflects the community of Irvine itself and puts that message in front of 80 million viewers.  A float is really a picture book that tells a story in 30 seconds as it rolls along the parade route.

In a phone interview, Matt Bailey opined, "It's certainly an interesting way to do it.  The story about all the great things happening here gets lost.  Often things happen in Irvine, technology or innovation, and it's hard to tell a story about.  If it were Uber or Tinder, it might be easier to talk about.  There's a lot of hard science here and businesses happening around that.  It's important for the local community and people outside Irvine to understand what's happening in Irvine."

One thing that happened in Irvine, Klimow said, is that the HTTP internet protocol that enables billions of people to surf the web was invented at UCI.  "There's a whole center of innovation in Irvine," she said.  "It has a global presence."

Han looking at float

Daniel Han, taking in the height of the float in this photo, surveyed the creation and poked around in the driver's compartment.  "It's phenomenal," he said.  "To me, it's a dream come true to even be here."  The first memory Han has of America after he came at the age of six was watching the Rose Parade on television with his family.

At right in the photo, Demea Metcalf is snapping pictures with her phone.  "I'm blown away!  I think it's so bright and colorful." She's excited about the float because, after all, "It's the Rose Parade!"

"I think it's a perfect representation of the City of Irvine," Greenberg added.  "It's flowers, education, technology.  It's why we all work here."  It's also why students choose to attend UCI.  The innovation-themed float ties together the aspirations and offerings of the community and the university. 

Bailey said, "If Irvine is known for anything, somebody saw it on a list of safest places to live.  That's great, but I think it's not all that inspiring for young people.  There is a lot of opportunity here.  It's a great university."  He wants people to know that it's a place for experimentation, a safe place to fail, learn, and succeed.  "It's a great environment," he said.

Matt Bailey

Most folks likely know about the Rose Parade, but it's unlikely they are familiar with one of the newest innovations at UCI, Applied Innovation at The Cove.  The Cove is dedicated to technology transfer-getting inventors, innovators, entrepreneurs, and investors in the same space to collaborate and get new technology to market faster and ensuring that intellectual property is protected..  The doors opened just two weeks ago.  "Six months ago, we were dry walling," Bailey said.

"The Cove is the first step there is to creating a space where people can get together.  It's 31,000 square feet of space in a research park that's dedicated to building a community or microcosm of the university ecosystem.... It's fun, it's got a good energy to it.  It's about making connections.

"The hard science piece is happening at the university.  We take it and try to get it implemented, out into the world,  We take all the great innovation and apply it to something, turn it into something real in the world."  One of the ideas is to foster an environment where people from the university and the community can bump into each other and end up collaborating on a new project.

Bailey said, "I think a Rose Parade float is a pretty interesting communication channel, an interesting way to reach a wide audience," and he added, "It's got to be a sustained effort, don't do it with this one thing."

Whether at The Cove or reflected on a Rose Parade float, as DiMario stated, "Innovation is at the heart of what makes Irvine a global city."