WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-Md.) today announced that the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) has been awarded a $3,749,804 grant over three years from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish an Innovation Corps (I-Corps) entrepreneurship program in the National Capital Region and turn science and innovation discoveries in the laboratory into practical consumer products in the marketplace. The project implements a partnership between UMCP, the George Washington University (GWU) and Virginia Tech (VT) to coordinate their training within the unique and vibrant science and innovation community of the DC/MD/VA (DMV) area.
“This NSF funding will enable consumers access to innovative scientific discoveries,” said Senator Cardin. “In creating an Innovation Corps, we are empowering the academic and scientific communities to join forces in developing businesses that will bring new products online, creating jobs and future economic growth for our region.”
“A strong economy is based on discovery and innovation that create new ideas that lead to new products and new jobs,” Chairwoman Mikulski said. “By turning scientists into entrepreneurs with the tools they need to succeed, we are taking science and research discoveries from the laboratory into the marketplace. I’m proud to put funds in the federal checkbook to ensure that Maryland continues to be a leader in developing new products and new businesses that create jobs today and jobs tomorrow.”
The I-Corps Regional Node in the DMV will leverage the respective strengths of UMCP, GWU and VT to help turn promising scientific discoveries into practical consumer products. The grant program will establish an I-Corps Mentor Network in the region designed to attract, train and retain top-notch mentors who will help bench scientists become entrepreneurs. The mentor network will also offer a post I-Corps Support program to help teams with a series of follow-on activities such as customer development, prototyping, technology transfer and licensing, fundraising, legal services and hiring.
In addition to providing training to UMCP, GWU and VT students and researchers, the regional I-Corps program would train an additional 150 teams over the next three years from top regional academic institutions as well as federal and state research labs and departments. I-Corps will also engage underrepresented minority participation and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) through a mentor network to provide innovation training.
The NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) is a set of activities and programs that prepare scientists and engineers to turn their discoveries into products and businesses that fuel the innovation economy. While knowledge gained from NSF-supported basic research frequently advances a particular field of science or engineering, some results also show immediate potential for broader applicability and impact in the commercial world. Such results may be translated through I-Corps into technologies with near-term benefits for the economy and society.
Combining experience and guidance from established entrepreneurs with a targeted curriculum, I-Corps is a public-private partnership program that teaches grantees to identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from academic research, and offers entrepreneurship training to student participants.
The primary goal of NSF I-Corps is to foster entrepreneurship that will lead to the commercialization of technology that has been supported previously by NSF-funded research. I-Corps Teams, composed of academic researchers, student entrepreneurs and business mentors, participate in the I-Corps curriculum administered via online instruction and on-site activities through one of several I-Corps Nodes like the DMV node funded by this grant. Together, the I-Corps programs strengthen the innovation ecosystem at the local and national levels.