Last June, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a new initiative called Innovation Corps (I-Corps) to help develop emerging technologies into practical new products. This public-private partnership operates with the goal of connecting scientific research funded by the NSF with professionals who have the expertise in business and technology that is needed to “enable the advancement of science innovations to the market,” says Lesa Mitchell of the Kauffman Foundation for promoting entrepreneurship, one of I-Corps’ founding institutions. The Deshpande Foundation serves as another founding member organization.
“The United States has a long history of investing in–and deploying–technological advances derived from a foundation of basic research,” says NSF Director Subra Suresh. “And the NSF mission connects advancing the nation’s prosperity and welfare with our passionate pursuit of scientific knowledge. I-Corps will help strengthen a national innovation ecosystem that firmly unites industry with scientific discoveries for the benefit of society.”
Experts in the private sector participate in by advising I-Corps awardees and serving as mentor volunteers. The program has begun with 100 innovation projects, each one with a budget of $50,000. Over a six-month period, each team, composed of a principal investigator, a mentor, and an entrepreneurial lead, systematically identifies and addresses the steps needed to turn cutting-edge science into innovative technology within a viable startup company. “While the main goal of I-Corps is to build on NSF’s investment in fundamental research,” says I-Corps program director Errol Arkilic, “the program also seeks to offer academic researchers and students an opportunity to learn firsthand about technological innovation and entrepreneurship to fulfill the promise of their discoveries.”
It’s not hard to see that I-Corp and IP2Biz have a lot in common. Although I-Corp sprang from the public sector and IP2Biz was founded as a private company, both serve as a bridge between research in the lab and technology in the market. Our next post will focus on some of these similarities and introduce the I-Corps curriculum.