Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville may likely never become friends on the football field. But as research institutions, the four universities have come together to build I-Corps South, the southern regional network of the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps program (NSF I-Corps), a national program created in 2011 to train researchers to evaluate the commercial potential of their scientific discoveries.
The I-Corps South program initially started at Georgia Tech, but with the awarding of a $3.45 million grant, three other universities are now part of the network that will introduce research labs, colleges, and universities throughout the Southeast to the NSF I-Corps evidence-based entrepreneurship methodology and courseware, with a potential to reach more than half a million graduate students, and many thousands of the nation’s research faculty.
With the announcement of this partnership also comes announcement of its first program, Atoms & Bits, a six-week program for teams of 2-4 persons interested in commercializing research. The kick-off starts on October 24, at Georgia Tech, that will lay the foundations for building a solid business. Accepted teams also have the opportunity to be qualified for a national cohort, which carries a $50,000 stipend to pay startup expenses and a fast track into the SBIR program. Applications are still being accepted until October 14.
Clearly, the benefits for the academic institutions and those who are part of them are obvious. But such programming that bring specific curriculum that are more readily available to this network of universities have larger implications. For state of Tennessee, they believe the potential of increasing commercialization outcomes in each of the participating states can only benefit the overall economy.
“We will be working with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and LaunchTN, our statewide public-private partnership focused on supporting the development of high-growth companies in Tennessee,” said Randy Boyd, commissioner of Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. “This type of entrepreneurial training will encourage and grow an innovation ecosystem in this region enhancing commercialization and economic well-being.”