This effort involves the creation and implementation of an I-Corps Regional Node in DC/MD/VA (DMV) region through a partnership involving the University of Maryland College Park (UMD), the George Washington University (GWU), and Virginia Tech (VT). The proximity of the DMV node to the Washington, DC area's vibrant entrepreneurial R&D ecosystem is providing a valuable set of resources to the national I-Corps network. The node is leveraging the respective strengths of the three institutions to help guide the transition of scientific discoveries into technologies and products that benefit society. It is implementing 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 (e.g., LinkedIn, YouTube, Google Docs, Quora, LaunchPad Central); addressing the needs that are particularly valuable to the nature of I-Corps teams. The ONN aggregates rich content and makes it more readily accessible to the I-Corps user community. It further enables the mentor network to pool and share their expertise with multiple 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.
Broader Significance: In addition to providing training to NSF team cohorts, the DMV node is managing a Regional DMV I-Corps program that is designed to train an additional 150 teams over a three-year period. Thirty-five of the top two hundred U.S. universities in R&D expenditures are within a 4-hour drive of the DMV node. The node is focusing on attracting teams from these top regional academic institutions, as well as from the many federal and state research labs that are unique to the DMV region (e.g., NASA, NIH, ARPA-E). The node is also engaging underrepresented minority participation and HBCUs through cooperation with the Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, Inc. (GEM) consortium. It is implementing a GEM-endorsed initiative to increase the awareness of research commercialization opportunities. Small grants are being directed to promising HBCUs' teams in order to provide innovation training. The node is additionally leveraging the DMV's mentor network to support the HBCU teams.