One of 10 partner schools in the new NSF I-Corps Hub, GW will continue a tradition of helping researchers realize the commercial potential of their discoveries.
As a partner institution in a new $15 million National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Hub, George Washington University will join other research universities in advancing innovation and entrepreneurship in the Mid-Atlantic region and expanding the societal impact of fundamental research.
NSF I-Corps Hubs are the latest evolution in the federal agency’s decade-old I-Corps program, which provides academic researchers with hands-on, immersive entrepreneurial training to help them transform their research into successful products and services.
In establishing five regional I-Corps Hubs—each funded at $3 million a year for five years—the NSF aims to build and sustain a diverse and inclusive innovation ecosystem across the United States. As one of 10 schools selected for the Mid-Atlantic Hub, GW is helping its researchers answer the call to serve key national needs. Those include increasing and improving translational research and technology commercialization, training students to become leaders for future deep technological research and diversifying all levels of the national innovation network with the inclusion of women and minorities, especially in leadership roles.
"This new hub’s partnership will provide resources to researchers at GW and other schools in the region,” said Bob Smith, GW’s I-Corps director. “I-Corps helps to shape new university research, and it helps researchers discover new commercial opportunities in the world outside the lab. We're thrilled to be extending our long-standing relationship with the NSF and the I-Corps program."
The University of Maryland will lead the I-Corps Hub Mid-Atlantic Region, with GW, Penn State and North Carolina State as partner institutions. Johns Hopkins University, Virginia Tech, Carnegie-Mellon University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Howard University are affiliates.
Congress and the White House are keeping a watchful eye on the I-Corps program, making GW’s location in the heart of the nation’s capital pivotal. The I-Corps program is part of a larger strategy for the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, a bipartisan bill investing in scientific and technological innovation that Congress passed last June. In 2015, the Obama administration included I-Corps in its Strategy for American Innovation and announced that the program would spread from NSF to all the major research funding agencies in the United States.
“For the keen researcher, the lessons to be learned in participating in the I-Corps program could catalyze the success rates for future research proposals,” said Dayo Shittu, professor in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. “This is because once a proposal idea could be crafted as a minimum viable product, then making it appeal to the members of the merit review panel becomes easier especially on intellectual merits and broader impact.
“Therefore, there is tremendous opportunity for societal benefits when these labs, that I would call idea incubators, transition to real ventures. In the long run, everyone becomes a winner.”
GW has been a core university in the DC I-Corps Node, one of nine regional nodes across the country comprising NSF’s National Innovation Network, and has led many of the efforts to globalize I-Corps by bringing it and other related entrepreneurial training programs to countries around the world.
“Since I became involved as a mentor in the very first NSF I-Corps pilot in 2011, GW has been critical to the evolution of the I-Corps program as a leader in the DC I-Corps Node, GW I-Corps Site, source of national I-Corps teams, mentors, and instructors and numerous supplemental grants for the promotion of diversity, equity, inclusion and solutions,” said Jim Chung, associate vice president for research in the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “I believe the new I-Corps Hub grant is just the first of many new developments that will benefit GW students and faculty interested in getting their inventions and research out of the classrooms and labs and into the real world.”
GW continues to be a leader in spearheading innovation and entrepreneurship not just in the D.C. area, but across the globe. Last week, the university hosted the third annual GW October, a weeklong event that provides guidance, training and networking opportunities for entrepreneurs. The GW community expanded outreach by inviting researchers from all over the world to participate in a pair of conferences last Thursday and Friday.