We were wondering about a possible modern equivalent to the city of San Diego’s post-WWII gifts of giant parcels of Torrey Pines Mesa land to researchers and companies like General Atomics and the Salk Institute.

Carlsbad might have one.

A new operation – Bio, Tech and Beyond – has its grand opening Friday. It’s part laboratory, part shared workspace, part incubator for fledgling companies, part space for “citizen scientists.”

The city of Carlsbad offered the group a 6,000-square-foot building that’s been vacant for more than a decade for $1 a year for five years. The city’s also fixing up the building and paying the gas and electric bills for the first year. Here are the city’s terms of the agreement.

The city’s calculation has a few roots. Big life-sciences companies like Life Technologies, Isis Pharmaceuticals and Genoptix already have bases in Carlsbad. The city hopes to nurture fledgling companies that will grow like those ones and bring new jobs, products and patents to the city.

Photo by Sam Hodgson

The effort attempts to address the question of bringing down the costs for scientific research. For a long time throughout history, “either very wealthy patrons, or the king” paid for such endeavors, said Joseph Jackson, one of Bio, Tech and Beyond’s co-founders.

“This is something we’ve been thinking a lot about,” he said. “For the last 50 years at least you either were a part of a university or you had a corporate patron organizing the research teams. We are grappling with how we can support research in a different format.”

The group hopes to launch eight startups in its first two years and to offer public science classes. The Salk Institute’s on board to help with science education efforts.

The effort’s co-founder, Kevin Lustig of Assay Depot, told Xconomy he wants the space to be conducive for inexpensively testing an idea.

While the community lab is open to all users, including students, Lustig and Jackson say they’re encouraged by the number of professional biotech researchers (“with day jobs”) who have expressed strong interest in leasing a lab bench to carry out experiments on their own time.

Jackson is one of three voices for our upcoming event on July 24 – a live conversation about the history of innovation in San Diego, its current landscape and what could keep discovery and innovation from growing here. He’ll join UC San Diego’s Mary Walshok, who’s studied the region’s historical roots of innovation, and startup founder Melani Gordon of TapHunter. I hope you’ll join us.

This is part of our Quest to find out more about the innovation economy in San Diego. Here’s a good overview of what we wanted to find out, and check out these highlights from the series.

Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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