UCF has been selected by the National Science foundation (NSF) to provide Florida’s first implementation of one of the agency’s flagship programs, an I-Corps Site. The I-Corps Site’s purpose is to foster innovation among faculty and students, promote regional coordination and linkages in the innovation ecosystem, as well as develop a National Innovation Network. 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. The new program will offer seed funding to each selected team to be used as early development seed money to turn their entrepreneurial ideas into potentially viable companies.
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.
UCF has one of the nation’s best innovation and entrepreneurial networks and is one of 37 universities nationwide that is 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 Massachusetts.
The UCF I-Corps program is administered by the university’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), a department that consolidates and coordinates UCF’s major innovation and entrepreneurship support activities. The CIE is the collective home for UCF’s existing entrepreneurship related programs and will be an integral part of both the identification of potential team members and the follow-up mentoring and coaching activities. 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. A specific goal of UCF’s I-Corps program is to increase the numbers of women and underrepresented minorities involved in starting companies.
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 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.
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