The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the City University of New York Central Office of Research an I-Corps Sites award of $500,000 for its STEM – Tools for Innovation & Entrepreneurial Success (TIES) Innovation program. The CUNY STEM TIES training programs will provide unique opportunities for critical skill development, networking, training and attainment of commercialization strategies towards the result of enhancing the fields of science and technology. Through the strength of the diversity at CUNY, students and faculty will be given the opportunity to take their innovation concepts from foundation to implementation. The CUNY STEM-TIES Site Leadership Team is comprised of the PI, John Blaho (Director, Industrial-Academic Research, CUNY) and coPI, Chris Mooney (Associate Professor, Queensborough Community College, CUNY) and will utilize CUNY’s network of its renowned colleges and schools to source teams and mentors. The STEM-TIES program provides students enrolled at schools throughout the university the opportunity to engage in innovative and skills based training programs. Faculty and students will have the ability to receive seed funding to explore commercialization opportunities for their businesses. A particular focus of the program is for faculty and students at the seven CUNY community colleges to receive support and training. The NSF I-Corps Sites award is the culmination of work done throughout the University over the last several years through the Community College Innovation Challenge program. The CUNY STEM TIES Site will embrace the successful NSF I-Corps program. Through a strategic partnership with the New York City Regional Innovation Node (NYCRIN), STEM TIES will leverage their extensive network of universities and mentors as it targets traditionally underrepresented students and faculty spanning multiple disciplines
Over the last ten years CUNY, has seen an almost fifty percent increase in the number of undergraduate STEM majors system-wide. The 2012 report issued by the Federal Coordination in STEM Education Task Force identifies undergraduate STEM education as a priority under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. The report further notes that investment in undergraduate STEM training leads to a more diverse and prepared workforce. The proposed STEM TIES I-Corps Sites program will serve a dual societal and commercial purpose by providing a vital opportunity for a population of faculty and students, who often face severe obstacles in acquiring financial resources and professional mentorship, to pursue the commercialization of their research. It also assists in the enhancement of the scientific frontier by ensuring that underrepresented and low-income populations have access to the same innovation ecosystem as individuals who attend private educational institutions, thus filling a significant gap within our innovation ecosystem. It is anticipated that the STEM TIES Community College I-Corps paradigm will be expanded throughout NYS and to other states in the region with the long term goal of developing a program that will be used as a model for all Community Colleges across the country.