Home > Coller Venture Review > CVR Issue 4 – University Venture > The National Science Foundation’s Lean Start-Up Push I-Corps as a model for international univenture

The National Science Foundation’s Lean Start-Up Push I-Corps as a model for international univenture

Learn what the U.S. has been doing to direct academic innovation into commercial success

How does America do it?

American venture is the envy of many, and the U.S. prides itself on the ideals of the ambitious self-made entrepreneur and the existence of unlimited opportunities, and can show impressive results; but in reality, as this article shows, these results owe much to federally enacted regulations, laws and support structures that empower the move from hopeful ambition to a commercially successful venture.

During the post-WWII period Congress has enacted a series of new laws that directed public resources toward innovation and the commercialization of research.  Many of these U.S. legal initiatives became models for international adoption.  For example:

  • The Higher Education Act of 1965
  • The Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965 (PWEDA)
  • The Patent and Trademark Law Amendments Act of 1980 (Bayh-Dole Act)
  • The Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982
  • The America COMPETES Act of 2007 and 2010

The article surveys these initiatives and focuses in detail on I-Corps, a flagship program launched by the NSF in 2011. This program has been able to rapidly evolve and grow by operating within the existing legal framework.

I-Corps has expanded and evolved rapidly to consist of multiple components:

  • An I-Corps curriculum for training science and engineering teams in Lean Startup principles.
  • I-Corps Teams, which are eligible for grants of up to US $50,000, are composed of the principal investigator (an academic), an entrepreneurial lead (a student), and a business mentor.
  • I-Corps Nodes serve as hubs for education, infrastructure and research that engage scientists and engineers in innovation; they also deliver the I-Corps Curriculum to I-Corps Teams.
  • I-Corps Sites are academic institutions that catalyze the engagement of multiple, local teams in technology transition and strengthen local innovation.

Characterized by rapid experimentation and prototyping that mimics the performance of startup ventures, the I-Corps program is an excellent candidate for future adaptation worldwide.

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About the Author:

Michael Ehrlich – Associate Professor, New Jersey Institute of Technology; Co-Director, NJ Innovation Acceleration Center