January 22, 2014 | News, Research, Vice Chancellor for Research
In the world of university entrepreneurship, it can be tough to transition from “good idea” to successfully forming a company or licensing a technology. This is especially true in the hard sciences such as physics, engineering, chemistry, biology, and geology—areas in which the researchers who understand the technology have no real concept of who or what their “target market” is. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has not only identified this “ditch of death,” but it has also implemented a national effort move previously funded basic research into the marketplace to pressure-test the viability of these projects. The NSF created the Innovation Corps (I-Corps) in 2011 in an effort to assess the commercial readiness of federally funded technology concepts, and to create useful new products, processes, and services.
There are three levels of I-Corps: Nodes, Sites, and Teams. The New York City Regional Innovation Node (NYCRIN) is one of only 5 national nodes. The NYCRIN is a collaboration between CUNY, NYU, and Columbia that connects, engages, and educates 25 leading universities within the New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut region. The NYCRIN has three strategic aims: to teach the NSF national I-Corps course to university teams from across the nation, to create a regional infrastructure leveraging the NYC entrepreneurial ecosystem, and to collect, analyze, and utilize the data gathered from I-Corps teams. NYCRIN hosted its first I-Corps team cohort only a month after the Node was established, and it received high remarks from the NSF after this Level 1 initiative was completed. The first Level 2 activity was a Networking Event that took place on July 24, 2013.
The NYC Regional Innovation Node’s inaugural Networking Event hosted over 130 representatives from 18 of the 25 universities from each of the four states. This event was designed to connect the counter-parts from the regional universities, to develop new collaborations and increase innovation in the Node region. The founding I-Corps Program Director, Errol Arkilic, gave an in-depth talk on “The Genesis and Vision of I-Corps” in which he described how and why the program started, and how the NSF envisions that the I-Corps will impact the US economy in a drastic way.
The event closed with a panel discussion with successful I-Corps teams, which was found to be very useful by many of the attendees. One network school participant stated that the panel “was insightful regarding what the teams went through and what they learned. It provided good insights about how they moved from early fundamental research to understanding where market opportunities were for their technologies.” An overwhelming majority of post-event survey respondents stated the information provided at the event made them more likely to organize or facilitate organization of I-Corps teams.
Overall the NYC Regional Innovation Node’s first regional event was a great success for not only the leadership team, but more importantly, for those who attended from our network universities. NYCRIN will continue to expand its regional events and is excited to work cooperatively to build, utilize, and sustain a national and regional innovation ecosystem that further enhances the development of technologies, products, and processes that benefit society.