UT chosen as one of four national sites for innovation program

March 8, 2015 | Events, News, Research, UToday, Business and Innovation, Engineering, Natural Sciences and Mathematics
By Aimee Portala



The University of Toledo has been selected by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as one of the first four Innovation Corps (I-Corps) sites in the country. I-Corps sites are academic institutions that engage multiple, local teams in technology transition and strengthen local innovation.

The I-Corps program prepares scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and broadens the impact of select, NSF-funded basic-research projects.

Developed at Stanford University, I-Corps affords entrepreneurs the opportunity to talk to their customers much earlier in the product and business development process, enabling them to truly understand their market and determine whether or not their product is a fit.

The kickoff of the NSF I-Corps Program is Sunday, March 8, through Wednesday, March 11, in the Thomas and Elizabeth Brady Engineering Innovation Center on UT’s Main Campus. The event is part of a partnership between UT and the University of Michigan, with faculty, students and mentors from both universities participating.

“Recruiting teams for this program has been an amazing experience,” said Dr. Patricia Relue, UT professor of bioengineering. “The scientific and engineering capability at UT is diverse and rich, and the community and alumni response to our mentor recruiting efforts was very enthusiastic. The teams develop a sense of camaraderie during this training that is an important component of the program’s success.”

Eight teams with product and business ideas in the areas of bioengineering, chemistry, and manufacturing and monitoring technologies will receive education and guidance during the event.

“The main focus of this event is to educate and provide resources to these teams that enable them to talk to customers much earlier than is typical in the commercialization process, which allows them to truly understand and validate the market and their customers,” said Jessica Sattler, UT director of economic engagement and business development programs. “This can lead to a pivot in their technology or business model or complete abandonment of the idea before a lot of time and money are spent developing a technology and business for which the market has no need.”

Combining experience and guidance from established entrepreneurs with a targeted curriculum, I-Corps teaches grantees to identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from academic research, and it offers entrepreneurship training to student participants.

NSF will work with the private sector to bring additional resources to the table, in the form of partnerships and finance, when warranted.

University leadership and representatives from the Ohio Development Services Agency, Ohio Board of Regents, Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, Ohio State University and Eastern Michigan University also will be present.

For more information, contact Sattler at jessica.sattler@utoledo.edu or 419.530.6164.