STC.UNM (STC), UNM’s technology transfer and economic development arm, and the Innovation Academy (iA), UNM’s innovative program for entrepreneurial students, were recently awarded a five-year, $444,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps Sites.
The NSF awarded the grant under its Innovation Corps - National Innovation Networks Sites Program, created to build a sustainable ecosystem that successfully commercializes innovations from NSF-funded research through new company formation and entrepreneurial training for scientists and engineers. The grant will fund new programs and expand existing ones developed by the two organizations.
In 2011, the NSF launched a very successful pilot program and developed a curriculum based on the lean start-up theory that is the origin of the I-Corp program.
Co-PIs on the grant, iA Executive Director Rob DelCampo and STC CEO Lisa Kuuttila are thrilled to receive the award for their proposal, titled “University of New Mexico Lobo Rainforest I-Corps Site.”
“UNM is poised to greatly expand entrepreneurial training through this award,” said DelCampo. “It’s going to encourage even greater collaboration between academia and industry and provide highly effective training for students and faculty to really understand innovation and entrepreneurship.”
“We are a first-time (type I) awardee of an I-Corps grant,” added Kuuttila. “The grant could not have come at a better time for STC and the iA as we co-locate at the Lobo Rainforest Building at Innovate ABQ. We will be able to provide seed funding and resources for more university inventors to move their technologies toward new company formation, licensing, strategic partnerships, and bigger private and public funding.”
The grant partners will form a management team to oversee the project’s day-to-day operations, fiscal management, and team development.
The core of the STC-iA Rainforest I-Corps program will focus on recruiting individual commercialization teams comprised of a PI (faculty, postdoc, or student), an entrepreneur, and a mentor, who will be seed funded and supported to develop an idea, project, or research in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) area supported by the NSF. Student and postdoc PIs will work with a designated academic lead.
The program will focus also on recruiting a mix of faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, and women in STEM and other underrepresented minorities for the program.
Request for proposals will be issued twice each year for selection of 10 teams from each cohort for a total of 20 team proposals in the first year. The number of teams chosen will increase incrementally each year over the five-year program period. A committee of UNM, STC, and business community members will evaluate the proposals for the winning applications.
The grant will also allow STC and iA to expand their existing educational programs and implement Lean LaunchPad training as the overall entrepreneurial training curriculum for the I-Corps Site program, as well as the Online Kauffman Founders School and I-Corps Site training programs.