UCF has been selected by the National Science foundation (NSF) to provide Florida’s first implementation of one of the agency’s flagship programs to foster innovation among faculty and students, promote regional coordination and linkages in the innovation ecosystem, as well as develop a National Innovation Network, NSF’s I-Corps™.

The NSF Innovation Corps(I-Corps) is the agency’s signature effort to assist teams of university scientists and post-doctoral or graduate students to go outside of their laboratories and into the marketplace where they can learn first-hand about entrepreneurship while they explore and validate the commercial landscape surrounding their innovation. The primary goal of NSF I-Corps is to provide University scientists and researchers the program, process, and resources to investigate and validate the commercialization of their science.

“We are going to be teaching researchers and graduate students how to be effective entrepreneurs,” said Tom O’Neal, associate vice president for the Office of Research & Commercialization and UCF I-Corps Site Executive Program Director. “Our objective is to increase the number of successful spin-out companies based on University research and innovation.”

UCF has one of the nation’s best innovation and entrepreneurial networks and is one of 15 universities nationwide that is leading an I-Corps program. NSF has also established five regional I-Corps centers, or nodes, located in such innovation hotspots as Washington DC, New York City, Michigan, San Francisco and Massachusetts.

The $300,000 NSF I-Corps funding will enable UCF to reach even more potential inventors and innovators. With a goal of recruiting and training 96 entrepreneurial teams that could result in 96 new companies over the three year grant period.

Teams will consist of an academic lead (typically a university faculty or staff member), an entrepreneurial lead (a graduate student), and an external industry mentor.  Each selected team will participate in a 10 week workshop utilizing the Lean LaunchPad (LLP) curriculum and methodology.  Selected teams will leave the workshop possessing a solid understanding of what is necessary to achieve an economic impact with a particular innovation.

The new program will offer up to $3,000 to each selected team to be used as early development seed money to turn their entrepreneurial ideas into potentially viable companies. Development of prototypes, customer research and travel to meetings with potential customers would all be acceptable expenses, said Ivan Garibay, researcher at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and UCF I-Corps Site Program Director.

By utilizing a group of experienced advisors to mentor and coach the selected teams, the NSF is counting on cultivating more qualified applicants for larger funding awards, such as the $50,000 offered by the NSF

I-Corps program executive committee: Ivan Garibay, Cameron Ford, Tom O’Neal, Pallavoor “Vaidy” Vaidyanathan and Oscar Rodriguez. Not pictured, Timothy Kotnour and Michael O’Donnell.
I-Corps program executive committee: Ivan Garibay, Cameron Ford, Tom O’Neal, Pallavoor “Vaidy” Vaidyanathan and Oscar Rodriguez. Not pictured, Timothy Kotnour and Michael O’Donnell.

I-Corps Teams program, and up to $1.4M in awards from the NSF SBIR program. The I-Corps program, which will be housed at UCF’s newly established Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), is developing a new generation of entrepreneurs and increasing the economic impact of fundamental research by combining a method for company creation that has proven successful in Silicon Valley with hands-on coaching and feedback from consumers.

The CIE is the collective home for UCF’s existing entrepreneurship programs and will be an integral part of both the identification of potential team members and the follow-up mentoring and coaching activities. A specific goal of UCF’s I-Corps program is to increase the numbers of women and underrepresented minorities involved in starting companies.

A selected group of teams will be participating in a spring pilot program of the Lean LaunchPad bootcamp. UCF students and faculty who are interested in participating in the bootcamp can submit an application found on the website: icorps.cie.ucf.edu.

More information is available by contacting Ivan Garibay at ivan.garibay@ucf.edu; tel: 407-882-1163.