The University of Iowa is a NSF I-Corps site managed by UIVentures and JPEC. Our program offers workshops to introduce faculty, staff, (and now) graduate students and postdocs to research commercialization. Their product or service, is called their intellectual property or IP, and is typically based on research discoveries or inventions achieved in a UI lab.
“Even if the student or faculty member does not want to became a startup business CEO, this is an excellent way to learn about the business world with respect to their specific technology area,” said Paul Dymerski, Director of UIVentures, “Even as a future research leader, you will need to manage relations with the business world.”
“Our first step toward commercialization is the Faculty Innovators Workshops (FIW). This four week, four workshop series introduces UI researchers to the Lean Startup method of commercialization,” Dr. Dymerski said, “The first questions we ask in the workshops are: Who will use it? And Who will Pay for it?” With assistance from experienced instructors and business mentors, the teams get-out-of-the-lab to start market discovery interviewing possible users, buyers, approvers, etc.
“It’s good to see both faculty and students on the teams discover that their years of research have a potential to directly help society,” Dr. Dymerski continued, “But then they learn about raising capital, getting FDA approval, and competition.” Teams receive $2,500 for completing the workshops, and after FIW the teams can go on to “national” I-Corps. They can receive $50,000 to continue discovery. During this time, a startup can be formed to actively move the research/invention to market. UIVentures and JPEC continue to assist the startups through the entire process with education, mentoring, and networking.
- The primary goal of NSF I-Corps is to foster entrepreneurship that will lead to the commercialization of technology that has been supported previously by NSF-funded research. Watch a video about I-Corps.
- The approach to entrepreneurship uses techniques developed to validate each commercial opportunity in a recognized, effective way: customer and business model development
- The vehicle for commercialization activities will most often be start-ups founded by the I-Corps participants; successful I-Corps projects will be prepared for business formation
The I-Corps programs feed the NSF Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs [These grants start at $150,000 and up to $1 million+. They are awarded to companies only, which can be their own UI spinout startup.]