A $500,000 grant has been awarded to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) and the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T) by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to jump start Greensboro as an Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Site.
I-Corps is a federally funded program that assists scientists and engineers in bringing research projects into commercialization. With the new Greensboro I-Corps Site, alumni and students of UNCG and NC A&T will have the opportunity to receive a $5,000 mini grant if their idea or innovation shows potential to grow in the business industry. The grant will allow the individual funding to allow continued development of their project.
The Greensboro I-Corps Site is just one in a network of new and existing I-Corps Sites across the nation. The I-Corps system functions somewhat like a chain: Sites are scattered in different locations but each Site connects to a larger Node. According to the National Science Foundation website, Nodes are designed to give regional support in order to “build, utilize and sustain a national innovation ecosystem that further enhances the development of technologies, products and processes that benefit society.”
The only other university in North Carolina that has a Site is located at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Each Site is restricted to one single-institution to support local innovation; UNCG applied for the NSF I-Corps Grant in partnership with NCAT. According to the National Science Foundation’s website, “Sites provide infrastructure, advice, resources, networking opportunities, training and modest funding to enable groups to transition their work into the marketplace or into becoming I-Corps Team applicants.”
“I am proud that UNCG was chosen amongst a competitive field to lead a Greensboro-based I-Corps site with N.C. A&T,” said Chancellor Franklin D. Gilliam in an Aug. 9 press release.. “This unique National Science Foundation initiative will foster innovation and collaboration among faculty, students and the greater Greensboro community, as we continue to develop a growing innovation ecosystem that will have real world impact.”
In the first year with I-Corps, UNCG and NC A&T have a goal to train 30 individuals using a business model grounded in learning from potential customers known as Lean Launchpad Methodology, as well as awarding teams grants of up to $3,000 to finance expenses such as prototyping for the projects.
“The Greensboro I-Corps Site will be made up three different cohorts taking place every year, with around 7-10 teams participating in each cohort. Each cohort is about 5-weeks long and will facilitate the participating teams learning the Lean Launchpad Methodology of investigating a business opportunity,” said Justin Streuli, the main conductor for the I-Corps grant at UNCG. “The teams will be expected to complete between 20-30 Customer Discovery Interviews during that 5-week period.”
Streuli listed some of the benefits of being the host of an I-Corps site; it broadens the professional network, gives guidance from established entrepreneurs and helps build a greater understanding of how innovation can impact society.
The first I-Corps cohort at UNCG is set to kick off October 13.