NSF Expands Funding for I-CORPS Award

Jul 22 2020

The NSF has made an expansion to its award for the tri-university I-CORPS award, of which Professor Chris Wiggins is the Columbia University Principal Investigator.

Since 2013, "NYCRIN" (New York City Regional Innovation Node, nycrin.org) has been an early NSF node in their entrepreneurial I-CORPS program. The NSF program seeks to help science and engineering researchers explore whether their research might be ready to lead to development outside the university, for example, as a patent, or a new technology startup corporation.

Professor Wiggins explains: "This expansion by the NSF speaks to their confidence in this collaboration between Columbia, NYU, and CUNY. NYCRIN has been an early leader in helping university researchers investigate potential applications of their work. We've demonstrated impact on the local New York City region, but also we've influenced the way that other NSF-supported regional innovation nodes conduct their own similar trainings and research programs." 

"Nationwide, the activities of this award include working with researchers within universities interested in exploring application of their work, often pairing a faculty member with an advanced graduate student or postdoctoral researcher. These activities are done with researchers at their home institutions. We've been doing this online for nearly a decade, making the transition to distributed process easier. Over the years, we also now have plenty of data from all the university teams who have gone through the I-CORPS training, which allows us to research early indicators of success for a new company, as well as topics such as research on factors influencing entrepreneurial participation of individuals from underrepresented groups."

Wiggins goes on to say, "It has been a very educational program for me as well, not only in learning how to advise new companies remotely, but in learning the basic lessons of the I-CORPS 'lean startup' curriculum. These include transitioning from developing research that's of interest to fellow experts in a sub-field to learning how to build technology people want."

"This idea goes by many names including 'design thinking', or 'talking to strangers', or 'getting out of the building'. But the basic idea is that there's a special kind of research in understanding what people want, which can be difficult when those people are not necessarily within the technologist's sub-field."

"That kind of research can be very useful to university researchers who want to cross the chasm from mastering peer review to building something people want. Doing that research early in the development of a new corporation can help ensure that all of the innovations that top research universities produce can have the largest and broadest impact."

Learn more about NYCRIN on their website and follow them on Twitter.