The U.S. National Science Foundation has announced that the University of Virginia is part of its new Mid-South Innovation Corps Hub, a consortium whose aim is to enhance innovation capacity, support promising research, generate economic value and create opportunities for diverse communities.
One of five such NSF hubs spread throughout the country, the hub is led by Vanderbilt University and also includes George Mason University, Jackson State University, Meharry Medical College, Tennessee State University, the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville and the University of Tennessee.
The five hubs will each be funded for up to $3 million for five years and will scale the NSF-led National Innovation Network, an organization of I-Corps Hubs that make up the program’s regional and national training programs. The goal of the network is to accelerate the translation of discoveries into new solutions that benefit society.
“Each regional I-Corps Hub provides training essential in entrepreneurship and customer discovery, leading to new products, startups and jobs,” said UVA alumnus Dr. Erwin Gianchandani, the NSF’s assistant director for the Technology, Innovation and Partnerships Directorate. “In this way, the I-Corps program will open up new economic opportunities throughout the United States.”
The NSF’s Innovation Corps is a public-private partnership program designed to teach university graduate and faculty research scientists who have STEM-related technologies how to identify valuable product and service opportunities that can emerge from academic research, and to provide entrepreneurship training to participants.
“We are excited for this partnership with NSF I-Corps,” UVA Vice President for Research Melur K. Ramasubramanian said. “This important entrepreneurial training will increase the economic impact of UVA research.”
The hubs will work to broaden participation by increasing diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility through all of their activities and objectives.
“Our students and faculty have fantastic ideas with great potential to help society,” Jennifer L. West, dean of the UVA School of Engineering and Applied Science, said. “The NSF’s investment will allow us to further support their ventures.”
The Mid-South Hub, directed by staff from the Wond’ry – Vanderbilt’s Innovation Center – will launch in January.
Richard W. Chylla, the executive director of the UVA Licensing & Ventures Group – the intellectual property management and innovation commercialization organization for the University’s research portfolio – said his team is “thrilled to be partnering with eight great universities and their innovation ecosystems.”
Chylla said training potential companies in the customer-discovery process will be one of the hub’s driving forces.
“At a place like UVA, where we have a lot of leading research and so much potential for startup companies based on UVA research, it’s a valuable service to be able to offer our faculty, our students and our potential entrepreneurs,” Chylla said. “It’s an important element for startups.”