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Environmental Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Addressing serious environmental and natural resource problems requires ingenuity, agile thinking, and innovation.

The MESM Environmental Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Innovation) focus is an experiential curriculum designed for students who wish to acquire the skills and mindset needed to drive innovation within an existing organization or to launch a new entrepreneurial venture. The Innovation focus curriculum is impact-oriented and provides flexibility to choose coursework in corporate innovation, entrepreneurship or social innovation.

As a MESM student at Bren, you can choose one or more optional academic focus areas to enhance your master’s program experience. In the Innovation focus, you will receive training to develop agile thinking and complex problem solving skills through the process of identifying and defining a market opportunity. Our innovation process involves problem discovery and ideation, conducting industry research to understand the landscape, performing market validation to reduce the risk and uncertainty of new ideas, and assessing environmental impact. Students developing business models for new environmental ventures test their ideas through pilot project or prototype development. 

Bren MESM graduates who have completed the Innovation focus have applied this training to advance their careers in corporate sustainability, ESG consulting, nonprofit management, public sector leadership, and social and environmental entrepreneurship. Many graduates have successfully launched new ventures, which were ideas developed and tested through the Innovation focus or as an Eco-E Project.

Photo of Caitlin Martin
Because of my Innovation training, I always keep the customer or stakeholder problem front and center when trying to solve sustainability challenges. The approach to problem-solving that I learned in the Innovation & Entrepreneurship program helps me to ask the right questions, in order to understand the pain points and create solutions that get to the root of the problem.
Caitlin Martin
ESG Specialist at Williams-Sonoma (MESM 2019)
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Companies Launched

Bren School graduates have successfully launched companies from ideas developed in the MESM program. Award-winning and notable companies launched from the Environmental Innovation & Entrepreneurship program include:

Aristotle’s Lantern (2021)

Creating urchin ranching solutions for the restoration of kelp habitat in California and urchin fisheries in New England.

Hey Hi Hello (2020)

Full-service custom and curated gifting service, sourcing from the best small makers out there.

The Hurd Co. (2019)

Reducing the impacts of the apparel supply chain through harnessing waste from the Cannabis industry.

BranchOut (2017)

Unlocking the outdoors through play-based curriculum.

EV Match (2016)

Reducing the barriers to electric vehicle use by matching EV owners with reliable charging options in their community.

Salty Girl Seafood (2014)

Improving access to sustainable, traceable seafood across the U.S.

Focus Area Coursework

The Innovation focus offers courses in corporate innovation, entrepreneurship, leadership, business strategy, finance, marketing, product development, strategic planning and more. Focus areas are optional for MESM students.

To complete the Innovation focus, students must take at least 10 units of the following courses. 

10 units required to complete the focus

ESM 228  Monitoring and Evaluation (4 units)
ESM 230  Strategic Planning for Social Impact (4 units)
ESM 231  Creating Value through Environmental Solutions (2 units) 
ESM 233  Testing Innovation Opportunities and Organizational Readiness (2 units) 
ESM 256B  Value Proposition Design for New Environmental Ventures (2 units) 
ESM 269  Survey Design and Environmental Public Opinion (2 units)
ESM 279  Financial Management and Environmental Accounting (4 units)
ESM 281  Business and Sustainability (4 units) 
ESM 284  Sustainable Product Development (4 units) 
ESM 402A  Business Model Development for New Environmental Ventures (4 units)
ESM 430  Workshop in Environmental Science and Management (Environmental Negotiation) (1 unit)  
TMP 240  Business Strategy and Leadership (4 units) *
TMP 241  Managing Innovation (4 units) *
TMP 242  Entrepreneurship (4 units) *
TMP 244  Entrepreneurial Marketing (3 units) *
TMP 246  New Venture Finance (3 units) *
TMP 255  New Product Development (4 units) *
TMP 269  Creating a Market-Tested Business Model (4 units) 
TMP 283  Ethnographic Research Methods (4 units) 

*Several TMP courses are part of the Graduate Program in Management Practice (GPMP), a UC-recognized certificate offered by Technology Management at UCSB.

Any MESM student may choose to take Innovation courses (ESM) as electives.

Eco-E Project

Innovation focus students may choose to apply concepts learned in foundational courses to an Eco-E Project. Eco-E Project teams of 3-5 students collaborate over the course of a year to develop and refine a business model for a new, commercially viable product or service that makes a positive and measurable environmental impact. 

Students pursuing an Eco-E Project develop agile thinking and complex problem solving skills, as they are challenged to make a series of strategic choices that requires bringing together science, policy, systems thinking and human context. Eco-E Projects receive funding to develop small-scale pilot projects or prototypes to obtain early customer feedback. You'll learn to cultivate a network of advisors, including faculty and industry experts. During the course of the project, you gain experience by regularly presenting your business model to colleagues, advisors, industry experts, and judging panels. You emerge with solid experience managing team dynamics, developing strategies, engaging in outreach and communications, and formally presenting your business case.

Five people link arms and smile on stage

Environmental Innovation & Entrepreneurship Mentorship

Innovation focus students receive guidance and mentorship from a variety of local entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders. At the end of each quarter in each Innovation focus course, teams present to a judging panel for critical feedback and an industry perspective. The Eco-Entrepreneurship Advisory Council (EEAC) meets quarterly with students developing business models for new environmental ventures and provides ongoing feedback throughout the two-year MESM program. Additional mentors and select external advisors from relevant industries are assigned to teams to provide insight into current industry dynamics and share contacts within their industry.

Two students with laptops having discussion with advisor

UCSB Innovation & Entrepreneurship Ecosystem

UC Santa Barbara Innovation + Entrepreneurship is a coordinated campus-wide organization designed to stimulate new, diverse, and lasting economic development opportunities. Comprised of distinct yet complementary partner programs on campus, UCSB I+E provides physical infrastructure, educational programming, technology translation, and startup incubation and acceleration to the campus community. Building on UCSB's existing strengths in creating successful faculty and student entrepreneurial endeavors in every market from advanced materials to environmental solutions, UCSB I+E will continue to launch successful and lasting businesses that positively impact our city, state, and beyond.

Are you ready to solve environmental problems?

Request more information, bring your questions to an admissions webinar, or start your online application.

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