The National Collegiate Inventors & Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) proposes to scale the I-Corps program by supporting the program at campuses in geographically-diverse locations across the U.S. NCIIA will work with members of the I-Corps teaching team to implement a I-Corps curriculum workshop. Feedback from the evaluation process will inform improvements in both the instructor-training program and the I-Corps curriculum. NCIIA Course and Program grants support the development and implementation of experiential education programs that teach engineering and science students to apply innovative and entrepreneurial thinking to their coursework.
The goal of the I-Corps program is to determine the commercial feasibility of technology derived from NSF-funded research. Participants will leave the program with an expanded skill-set that will give them the tools necessary to evaluate and translate their research into applications that can benefit society. This program will support a network of instructors who can improve and adapt the program model as it is disseminated to new institutions and regions.
The United States faces significant challenges in bringing the best science and engineering innovations to the global market. While we remain world leaders in scientific and engineering research and education, we can do much more to commercialize our best discoveries – particularly those emerging from university laboratories. For university research to achieve greater impact, academic researchers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) need more formal preparation in evaluating whether research discoveries can be readily translated into practical applications and eventual commercialization. For this reason, the National Science Foundation (NSF) established the Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) training program in 2011 to support NSF-funded researchers in learning how to evaluate their scientific research for commercial purposes. The I-Corps™ program provides NSF-funded principal investigators (PIs) and their team members with funding and training that prepares them to evaluate their technologies and research discoveries for commercial feasibility. The ultimate goal of the initiative is to increase the impact of NSF funding directly, through commercialization of research, or indirectly, by giving scientists and engineers skills in developing and testing business models for a potential product or technology. By the end of the program, I-Corps™ grantees are expected to reach a decision about the commercial readiness of their technology or product and will take with them a set of skills they can continue to apply in their research careers. Ideally, program participants will be able to evaluate and translate their research into applications that have commercial potential and can benefit society. In addition, participants will have identified promising commercial pathways that can lead to new high tech ventures or licensing opportunities. During the course of this grant, NCIIA conducted a Longitudinal Survey of 146 teams that participated in I-Corps™ during the 2011-2012 calendar years. Highlights of this survey include: 85% of the teams that responded to the survey indicated seeking additional government or non-government funding for their projects. 14 teams licensed out patents, copyrights, or trademarks. 62 individuals from among the 126 teams responding to the survey indicated that they have incorporated a company related to their I-Corps™ project. 33% of teams reported that they had engaged in licensing activities for their project. 22% of faculty participants reported developing an entrepreneurial curriculum and incorporating aspects of the I-Corps™ training into their engineering courses. Of those respondents who indicated that their project resulted in the formation of a company, 33% stated that the I-Corps™ Entrepreneurial Lead (EL) was the CEO; 26% stated that the CEO was not a team member, but rather an industry expert or seasoned CEO. 36% of the teams that completed the I-Corps™ course had at least one female team member. Of those teams, 63 are known to have created companies; 13 of theses companies are known to have female CEOâ€™s. 46% of survey respondents indicated that they are pursuing a new venture. Of those pursuing a new venture, 92% stated that their experience in I-Corps™ has positively influenced it. Of the 319 teams that have participated in I-Corps™ (as of June 2014), 152 have created startups. The first two years of the NSF I-Corps™ program have proven extremely successful, meeting (and often exceeding) expectations. With 152 new companies having incorporated within 36 months of program initiation, I-Corps™ is achieving its mandate to strength the U. S. economy and create high-skilled, well-paying jobs.