Just as transformative ideas and discoveries often arise from unexpected places, innovators and entrepreneurs are as likely to come from a small town in Ohio as Silicon Valley.
To help give a more diverse group of inventors, entrepreneurs and researchers the tools they need to bring bold science and engineering ideas to the marketplace, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has formed new public and private partnerships to give a larger community of innovators access to its successful Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) program.
This expansion coincides with the first-ever Demo Day at the White House, an event that will showcase talents of innovators and entrepreneurs from across the country.
The I-Corps™ program, which teaches participants to identify valuable, high-tech product and market opportunities that can arise from their engineering and science research discoveries and inventions, is one of several ways in which NSF feeds the nation's innovation ecosystem. NSF invests in basic research in all fields of science and engineering to enhance U.S. competitiveness. Complementing its investment in basic research, NSF supports a suite of programs to transition research advances with real-world applications potential.
This week, NSF announces the following partnerships to share the I-Corps curriculum with more diverse communities:
- the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service will help federal scientists recognize and act on opportunities to enhance the adoption of their research.
- the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture will teach grantees how to couple scientific discovery with technology development to help address agricultural and societal needs.
- the Department of Defense will enable the defense workforce to span the gap between basic, federally funded research and the commercialization of new, creative products.
- the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate will engage Small Business Innovation Research grantees to develop a stronger business model, market strategy and product.
- the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences will challenge medical innovators to translate innovations into products.
- the National Security Agency will accelerate commercialization via its intelligence community.
- the Ohio Department of Higher Education will foster entrepreneurship among faculty and graduate students statewide.
- the Small Business Administration will challenge small business experts to teach the I-Corps curriculum.
- the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will help early-stage organizations serving schools cultivate their innovations and scale their impact.
These new activities build upon already-thriving programs at the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which was the first agency to partner with NSF I-Corps™ in 2012, and the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which partnered with NSF in 2013.
In 2013, NSF also launched I-Corps™ for Learning, a version of the I-Corps TM curriculum that encourages NSF researchers in STEM education and learning to think beyond their research results and to take effective, research-based STEM practices into classrooms across America.
More than 500 teams and 1,600 people have completed I-Corps training, resulting in 261 startups that have raised more than $49 million in funding from outside sources. To date, 176 teams have reported new collaborations between their universities and the outside community, either industry, investors, and/or state or local governments.
"The I-Corps model has spread because of the people from all fields of science and engineering who have gone through the training and have been truly transformed by the experience," said NSF Director France Córdova. "The power of these success stories compels more people to bring I-Corps to their communities."
"We envision that, ultimately, anyone who wants an experiential education for technological innovation will have access to it," she said.
Diversity is a critical driver of excellence in research and innovation in STEM in the 21st century. For more comprehensive inclusion, NSF will launch a new initiative, INCLUDES, in FY 2016 to develop the nation's STEM talent for long-term impact on U.S. leadership in science, engineering and innovation through the contributions of women, members of racial and ethnic groups that have been underrepresented in STEM, and people with disabilities.
There is more information on the NSF I-Corps program on the NSF website.