I-Corps Recruits Engineers and Researchers Across Florida

NSF’s Flagship Program Focuses on Moving Innovations Beyond the Lab and into the Marketplace

Jerry Engel - a leader in the Lean Startup movement - speaking at the inagural UCF I-Corps kickoff event in Orlando

Jerry Engel – a leader in the Lean Startup movement – speaking at the inagural UCF I-Corps kickoff event in Orlando

Promoting “Engines of Innovation” through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Ecosystem, the UCF Innovation (I-Corps) Site is working to extend America’s reputation for ingenuity as a “nation of innovators.”

Recruiting cutting-edge scientists and engineers from Florida’s universities and research centers around the state, UCF I-Corps is now accepting applications until May 29, for admission into its fall program which begins August 24, 2015.  The 10-week program will provide selected research teams with first-hand knowledge about entrepreneurship, while exploring and validating the commercial opportunities surrounding their invention.

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 venture outside of their laboratories and into the marketplace to test assumptions about the commercial market opportunity.  The primary goal of NSF  I-Corps program is to provide participants with the tools to connect lab discoveries to market and societal needs.

“The I-Corps program is the NSF’s conduit for researchers that have a technology or an invention to validate the commercial opportunity.  Over a ten-week period teams get out of the lab to conduct about 100 interviews in order to test the validity of their assumptions about the market need and opportunity. Teams decide whether or not to pursue the path of additional funding and company formation at the conclusion of the program,” said Ivan Garibay, UCF I-Corps Program Director.

UCF I-Corps teams generally consist of an Entrepreneurial Lead (EL), Principal Investigator (PI) and Industry/I-Corps Mentor.  These aspiring entrepreneurs will participate in an immersive, hands-on program designed to teach them how to test their ideas, gauge feasibility, understand market demand, examine competition and develop mutually beneficial partnerships to help transition their ideas into profitable enterprises.

Once teams complete the UCF I-Corps program, the path to commercial market continues with opportunities for funding in NSF’s national I-Corps program and SBIR/STTR grant funding as well as tapping into the entrepreneurial ecosystem within UCF and the community.

UCF has one of the nation’s best innovation and entrepreneurial networks and is one of 36 universities nationwide, leading an I-Corps Site program. NSF has also established regional I-Corps Nodes, located in such innovation hotspots as Washington DC, New York City, Michigan, San Francisco and Boston.

A nationally certified teaching team oversees the teams and coaches them toward success. UCF’s certified teaching team consists of a mix of experienced entrepreneurs, investors and UCF faculty including Thomas O’Neal, Oscar Rodriguez, Michael O’Donnell, Cameron Ford, Ivan Garibay and David Metcalf.  The entire team earned its certification via training and support by Jerry Engel. Engel, professor at Berkeley (University of California), is National Faculty Director of the NSF I-Corps program and co-creator of the Lean Launchpad methodology and curriculum.

UCF Awarded Federal Grants to Expand Entrepreneurship Outreach in Central Florida

Community Partners Rally to Generate $1.5 Million in Matching Funding to Foster Culture of Innovation throughout Region

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announce funding two initiatives that will advance innovation and capacity-building activities in regions across the country.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announce funding two initiatives that will advance innovation and capacity-building activities in regions across the country.

Gaining momentum for its continued leadership in innovation and commercialization, UCF was awarded two federal grants totaling up to $750,000 from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE).  The College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) and community partners raised an additional $750,000 in matching funds to supplement the EDA grants.  These partners include:  Harris Corporation,  City of Orlando, Crossroads Investors, CanvsRollins College CollegeStarter StudioCreative Village Orlando and others. This represents $1.5 million to help foster the culture of innovation throughout the central Florida region.

U.S. Secretary Penny Pritzker came to UCF during a press conference to make the exciting announcement last week, as part of the 2014 Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program grants.

UCF was one of 24 institutions to receive RIS program funding, which is a new initiative designed to advance innovation and capacity-building activities in regions across the country, and one of only two universities to earn both an i6 Challenge Grant and a Cluster Grant for Seed Capital Funds.

i6 Challenge funds

The i6 Challenge was launched in 2010 as part of the Startup America Initiative and is now in its fourth iteration. i6 is a national competition that makes small, targeted, high-impact investments to support startup creation, innovation, and commercialization. Now that the i6 Challenge is included in the new Regional Innovation Strategies Program, the funding will support more than just Proof-of-Concept Centers. Investments will also go toward the expansion of existing centers and in later-stage Commercialization Centers, which help innovators fine tune and scale their innovations to bring new products and services to the market. The total amount of funding for the i6 Challenge under RIS is nearly $8 million.

The i6 Challenge funds will be used to extend the UCF I-Corps pilot program across the five economically challenged central Florida counties (Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Brevard and Volusia), and to help transition the region’s engineering workforce into high growth technology companies that design, manufacture, and export innovative products through the Maker Spaces Proof Of Concept Center (POCC).

This Center will also leverage both the statewide Florida Cleantech Accelerator Network (FL-CAN, which was created through a former i6 grant) and the Osceola County Advanced Materials Research Center once it is opened.

StarterCorps Fund The Starter Corps Fund will directly address the critical gap in seed funding that is the largest barrier faced by the region’s technology entrepreneurs.  The same five counties referenced above will be directly served by the StarterCorps Seed Fund.  UCF will set up the StarterCorps fund structure, in the first six months, raise a minimum of $1,000,000, which is enough to fund 12 companies through the first year.  Ultimately it will raise, deploy, and manage a $5 million evergreen StarterCorps Seed Fund to launch innovative technology and advanced manufacturing startups based in central Florida.

StarterCorps’s evergreen fund structure means all investment profits will be returned to the fund to be redeployed in future

investments.  StarterCorps will provide equity-based funding in a series of milestone-based investments.  Milestones will be based on a team’s aggressive progress in transforming commercially viable prototypes (which were developed in Starter Studio and I-Corps programs) into viable technology companies that gain early market traction, have a complete founding team (business and technical skills), secure IP, and can prove they are addressing an urgent market opportunity.

“The StarterCorps Seed Fund addresses the funding gap by developing stronger teams prepared for Angel investment, said Michael O’Donnell, founder of the Florida Angel Nexus CEO and executive director of the UCF Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE).

“We want to ensure that all entrepreneurs have access to the tools they need to move their ideas and inventions from idea to market. The Regional Innovation Strategies Program competition is designed to advance this mission across the United States, strengthening our economy and our global competitiveness,” said Secretary Pritzker.

UCF I-Corps helps teams of innovators go through all the necessary steps before taking an item to market and uses the UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science’s new Maker SpaceLab Complex, created with generous industry partners to help them through idea, design and prototyping. Thomas O’Neal, director of UCF’s CIE estimates that in the fifth year of the program 195 companies will be created producing 1,730 new high-wage jobs through these teams.

“The UCF Engineering Maker Spaces have already proven their value for our students in developing prototypes and testing ideas.  These grants will enable us to provide this value to more students and to the community,” said    Michael Georgiopoulos, Dean of UCF’s CECS.

“We are working with regional community partners and industry to make Central Florida an epicenter for innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship.  These grants will enhance our ability to help more future entrepreneurs across five counties.   The awards are a validation and recognition of the Central Florida ecosystem and UCF’s role as the partnership university,” said O’Neal.

More information about the Regional Innovation Strategies Program, including a full list of the 2014 grant recipients, can be found by clicking this link.

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Despite his advocacy and the backing of the Obama administration, they met a mixed fate in Congress. The biggest hit is Innovation Corps (I-Corps), a program that teaches academics how to commercialize the fruits of their research. It would get a 14% bump in 2016, to $30 million—a significant amount of money for a program whose core element is a 10-week training program for three-person teams.

Orlando Business Journal: Silicon Valley entrepreneur: Orlando tech scene has all the Ingredients to be great

When a guy from Silicon Valley who’s been a part of two multimillion-dollar startups and is co-owner of a venture capital firm talks, entrepreneurs need to take note.

And that’s just what more than 100 people did at downtown Orlando’s Church Street Exchange event on Jan. 29.

Jerry Engel visited Orlando to not only kick off National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program at the University of Central Florida, but to view Orlando’s tech scene and offer his insights.


OrlandoSentinel.com: Entrepreneurial leader to visit Orlando

A seasoned veteran of Silicon Valley will visit Orlando next month.

Venture capitalist Jerry Engel, an adjunct professor at University of California at Berkeley will appear in a question-and-answer session that will cover his career as an investor.

Engel founded Berkeley’s Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and teaches students about venture financing, innovation and private equity.

OrlandoSentinel.com: Orlando must work to keep “recognizable icons” of city’s tech community, says Silicon Valley entrepreneur

Jerry Engel had some advice for Orlando’s tech entrepreneurs Thursday: Determine the community’s leaders and make it easy to find them.

But, above all else, keep them here.

“You are building recognizable icons that represent your city,” said Engel, a veteran Silicon Valley entrepreneur. “Your job is to help convince those people (to stay). You cannot let them exit your community.”

OrlandoSentinel.com: UCF embraces I-Corps to bring innovation to market faster

There’s a new program at UCF to help get innovative research and startup companies into the marketplace faster.
Called I-Corps, the program is the first Florida location for an effort headed by the National Science Foundation. I-Corps used a ten-week program to help students and faculty test their ideas so they can launch a profitable business.