Tri-Valley Offers Strong Foundation for Innovation in AI and Life Sciences

Many trace the Tri-Valley's development as an innovation hub to the 1950s when Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL) and Sandia National Labs were established in  Livermore. The national labs concentrated thousands of highly educated individuals in the region and asked them to tackle huge scientific and technological challenges. Innovation has always been part of the job description for these skilled lab workers, who focus on ground-breaking projects using cutting-edge technology.

U.C. Berkeley and Stanford, world-renowned institutions that draw students from all over the globe, also contribute to the Tri-Valley's culture of innovation. After earning degrees, many former students stay in the area. Some become entrepreneurs and start their own companies; others join existing startups or more established companies and make them stronger. In a virtuous cycle, the Tri-Valley's pool of expertise helps draw other entrepreneurs and educated talent to the area.

The willingness to try and fail then try again is part of the East Bay's history and an integral component of innovation. Over many years, for example, thousands of LLNL scientists worked to achieve fusion ignition, a process that creates more energy from a fusion reaction than the energy used to start the process. It was only in December 2022 that LLNL's National Ignition Facility produced the world's very first demonstration of fusion ignition, which was duplicated earlier this year.

U.S. government officials and LLNL scientists called the event "a potentially world-changing breakthrough for fusion energy and a key initial step in a decades-long quest for limitless clean energy." According to LLNL officials, "researchers attributed the success after previous near-misses to a combination of improvements in target design, better predictive modeling backed by machine learning and ‘cognitive simulation,' advances in laser capabilities, and other adjustments."

The Business of Artificial Intelligence

LLNL scientists used machine learning (ML) to help achieve historic fusion ignition. ML is a subset of artificial intelligence that uses algorithms to analyze information, recognize patterns, and make predictions or take action based on what it has learned. The broad field of AI dates to the 1950s, and today a variety of industries use conventional AI in a host of products and processes, including search engines, chat bots, and self-driving cars.

Unlike these examples, "generative" AI can create something new based on patterns found in the training data. These outputs may include text, images, music, and computer code. Last year, generative AI captured the public imagination when a text tool called ChatGPT was released. New AI image tools also became available. Image generators create new images in response to a user prompt such as "wedding on the moon." But how can generative AI be useful to business? To explore that question, the first annual Tri-Valley Generative AI Summit was held on August 29 in Dublin. Saurabh Kuman, Founder and CEO of, came up with the idea after recording a Startup Tri-Valley podcast with co-hosts Hazel Wetherford, Dublin's Deputy City Manager, and Yolanda Fintschenko, Executive Director of i-GATE Innovation Hub, who leads the Startup Tri-Valley initiative.

"Starting our company right here in our backyard in the Tri-Valley was a fantastic personal and business decision," according to Kumar. "By the end of recording the podcast, I realized that we should be doing more to highlight what a great place this is for companies working in artificial intelligence, such as"

i-Gate collaborated closely with the city of Dublin in launching the summit, according to Fintschenko, who says Wetherford was "great to work with as both an inspiration and a co-organizer." More than 100 people participated in the summit as speakers and attendees. They included executives from Workday, Amazon, and Google; investors; representatives from startups; and officials from local and regional governments. Individuals from law firms as well as technology companies also attended.

"The Tri-Valley has positioned itself as a dynamic hub for AI development, and Dublin is proud to be a part of that story," says Dublin Mayor Melissa Hernandez. "We recognize AI's potential to reshape industries, enhance public services, and improve the overall quality of life for our residents."

Fintschenko agrees. "The Tri-Valley is a great place for an AI-based startup. The resources are here, and the customers are here. Artificial intelligence, particularly generative AI, has importance to every industry."

Innovation Infrastructure

Over the years, the Tri-Valley has developed a solid infrastructure for innovation that connects the national labs, business leaders, public officials, and nonprofit organizations across the region. The i-GATE Innovation Hub is one important component of this infrastructure. The Livermore-based nonprofit, which was started in 2010, is dedicated to building a thriving startup community in the Tri-Valley. i-Gate is sponsored by the town of Dublin; the cities of Danville, Livermore, and Pleasanton; and both national laboratories. Representatives from each sponsor sit on the i-Gate board.

As part of its mission, i-Gate manages Daybreak Labs, Startup Tri-Valley, and Tri-Valley Connect. Daybreak Labs is the Tri-Valley's only incubator for life sciences and hard tech startups. It provides research and development resources as well as office space to early startups developing new technologies in medical diagnostics, food tech, materials, industrial technology, and related areas. "Instead of investing in thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours building out facilities, our startups can go right to work and spend precious capital on other essential aspects of building the business," note officials.

The Tri-Valley's innovation infrastructure includes Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group, "a collective of leaders and influencers committed to connecting the businesses, educational institutions, research labs, and civic leaders in the Tri-Valley," according to its officials, who note, "with two national labs, more than 730 tech companies, and a GDP of $42 billion, the Tri-Valley is home to some of the world's most dynamic innovation brands." Other key organizations include East Bay Economic Development Alliance, venture capital firm Tri-Valley Ventures, the East Bay Bio Network, and local Chambers of Commerce, including the one in Pleasanton.

Together, these groups and established companies have created a powerful network of resources and events that nourish and support innovation. The annual Tri-Valley Life Sciences Summit is another example. The 2023 event will be hosted by new Hacienda tenant Unchained Labs on October 18 from 5 to 8 pm. The summit will open with remarks from Tim Harkness, founder and CEO of Unchained Labs, followed by a brief survey of the State of Tri-Valley Life Sciences.

The following month, on November 15 from 11 am to 1 pm, the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce and City of Pleasanton will host Pleasanton: The Destination for Successful Innovation. This luncheon at Casa Real at Ruby Hill Winery highlights successful Pleasanton-based companies "achieving advancements in their industry and making significant contributions locally and globally as this year's Economic Drivers," according to Chamber officials. The event will include a conversation by Economic Driver winners on emerging technologies and artificial intelligence. Featured winners will include Neural Propulsion, Hacienda tenant Vector Atomic, and ZF North America.

"Regional cooperation among cities, organizations like i-Gate, and entities such as Daybreak Labs is fundamental to our collective success," notes Hernandez. "I continue to appreciate and be impressed by how well we work together in the Tri-Valley. We're proud of our involvement in the summit and remain committed to doing our part to position the Tri-Valley as a hub for innovation, technology, and creativity."

The ease with which a new event, such as the Tri-Valley Generative AI Summit, can get started and an established event, such as the Tri-Valley Life Sciences Summit, can continue to draw support illustrate the region's focus on collaboration. "Our Tri-Valley startup ecosystem is strengthened because we can connect experts in many deeply technical fields to each other and to the broader business community through events like this," says Fintschenko. Moreover, such events are "a reflection of how well the cities work together. Tri-Valley city officials and staff recognize that partnering with other cities is a way to serve their constituents."

For more information about the first Tri-Valley Generative AI Summit, please visit

For more information about the Startup Tri-Valley podcast, please visit

For more information about  i-GATE Innovation Hub and Daybreak Labs, please visit

Photo: Summer Sanders, Social Media Manager, Patelco Credit Union. Image cropped.

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