Today the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the latest round of grant awards made under the NSF's Innovation Corps (I-Corps) effort. I-Corps is a public-private partnership to help develop scientific and engineering discoveries into useful technologies.
The three awards, totaling $11,239,921, went to three consortia of universities, which will act as I-Corps "nodes" to support regional needs for innovation education, infrastructure and research. The three consortia are:
The I-Corps Node: NSF Bay Area Regional I-Node Program, led by Richard Lyons at the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business, and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Blank, who teaches at Berkeley and Stanford, in collaboration with University of California, San Francisco and Stanford University.
This $3,750,000 award is supporting the consortium's efforts to produce an extensive entrepreneurship platform that is built on the scientific, technology, and engineering strengths, business thought leadership, and external ecosystems of the three universities. The node is applying and disseminating the Lean LaunchPad methodology through classes, focused training, and mentoring services to help drive the creation of science and technology-based startups. The partners are investigating how I-Corps Node training influences research commercialization outcomes and exploring ways to better understand the early stages of team formation and evolution, formation and evolution of advising networks, timing and content of decisions, and real-time attention allocation. The node is also studying the formation of entrepreneurial teams and ways to measure team evolution and effectiveness, in order to better understand how they can be supported in their efforts to commercialize invention.
The I-Corps Node: DC, Maryland, Virginia Region, led by Dean Chang at the University of Maryland, in collaboration with George Washington University and Virginia Tech
This $3,749,804 award is supporting the consortium's implementation of two initiatives that are specifically designed to increase the success rate of participating teams: (1) establishing a formal DMV I-Corps Mentor Network designed to attract, train, and retain top-notch mentors and (2) offering a post I-Corps Support program to help teams with a series of follow-on activities (e.g., continued customer development, minimum viable product prototyping, technology transfer and licensing, fundraising, legal services, and hiring executive talent). The node is implementing an Online Nodal Network (ONN) that ties together and augments existing tools, addressing the needs that are particularly valuable to the nature of I-Corps teams. In addition, the node is studying the effect of I-Corps training on: (1) any adjustments in orientation toward firm creation, (2) the proportion of teams that reach initial profitability, (3) the time required to reach initial profitability, and (4) the resources expended (time, money) in the start-up process. The node is also engaging underrepresented minority participation and HBCUs through cooperation with the Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, Inc. consortium.
The I-Corps Node: New York City Regional Innovation Node (NYCRIN), led by Gillian Small at the City University of New York, in collaboration with New York University and Columbia University.
This $3,740,117 award is supporting the consortium's work in leveraging the existing innovation ecosystem present in New York City (NYC) to provide innovators throughout the United States with a structured portal for access to the unique NYC-regional combination of world-class universities, venture capital investment resources, and one of the nation's fastest-growing technology start-up environments. The node will develop an open-source software suite for Lean analytics and Lean startup operation, integrating tools on which Lean entrepreneurs rely. NYCRIN is offering scalable workshops, seminars and counseling sessions to disseminate best practices and the Lean LaunchPad methods. The node also includes a wide range of other universities in a four-state region, providing them with open-source tools and online access to information to more broadly disseminate NYCRIN activities and outputs.
By instilling an understanding of innovation and providing opportunities for knowledge transfer between academia and industry, NSF will equip more faculty and students to be creative, technologically-savvy leaders. These nodes add to existing I-Corps nodes at Georgia Tech and the University of Michigan.
"These new nodes will significantly expand our reach in bringing innovation education to faculty and students," said NSF Program Director Don Millard. "The three consortia, with different and distinct industries in their region, are excited about the impact they will have, on and beyond their campuses. The addition of these nodes will significantly help advance the I-Corps program's National Innovation Network."
"The nodes are the foundation of a national innovation ecosystem, and focus on the front lines of local and regional commercialization efforts. We are looking to them to provide long-term, critical education infrastructure and feedback to the programs that support the commercialization of our nation's basic research portfolio," said Errol Arkilic, NSF I-Corps program director.
The nodes will work cooperatively to build, utilize and sustain a national innovation ecosystem that further enhances the development of technologies, products and processes that benefit society. The interconnected nodes of this network may be diverse in research areas, resources, tools, programs, capabilities and in geographic locations, while the network will have the flexibility to grow or reconfigure as needs arise.