The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded two major grants to further expand and support a national network of public-private partnerships to transition fundamental science and engineering discoveries to the marketplace under the Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) program.
The two grants, $3.75 million each over three years, will support innovation education, research and infrastructure in Southern California and Texas. These new innovation hubs, or "nodes," will join five existing I-Corps regional nodes located in the Washington, D.C., New York City, Michigan, Northern California and Atlanta areas.
The Southern California node will be based at the University of California Los Angeles and includes the University of Southern California (USC) and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Yannis C. Yortsos, dean of USC Viterbi School of Engineering, is the grant's principal investigator.
The Texas node, known as the Southwest Alliance for Entrepreneurial Innovation Node, will be based at the University of Texas at Austin and includes Rice University and Texas A&M University. Juan Sanchez, vice president for research at the University of Texas at Austin, is the grant's principal investigator.
In 2011, NSF created the I-Corps program to train NSF-funded researchers to evaluate their scientific discoveries for commercial potential. Since then, more than 167 institutions have participated, and 319 teams, typically with three people each, have completed the intensive seven-week training. Those teams have launched more than 163 small businesses that are moving technologies born in academia into the marketplace.
The I-Corps nodes and sites function as the program linchpins, administering the I-Corps curriculum and activities to help support teams as they evolve their technologies beyond the lab.
"The universities that form the new nodes in Southern California and Texas have long legacies as incubators for great American innovations," said Pramod Khargonekar, NSF's assistant director for the Directorate for Engineering, which oversees the I-Corps program.
"Each node will bring its own unique contribution and expertise, strengthening the National Innovation Network of mentors, researchers, entrepreneurs and investors" said Suzi Iacono, NSF's acting assistant director for the Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering Directorate, which co-funds the program.
NSF also collaborates with other federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency, to offer I-Corps training to their grantees.