National Science Foundation Commits $75 Million To University Innovation Hubs

The National Science Foundation’s multi-year investment in five university innovation networks is … [+] with the aim of increasing the social and economic impact of the country’s basic research discoveries.


The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced this week that it will be establishing five I-Corps Hubs as part of its Innovation Corps (I-Corps ™) program. Each hub, funded at $ 3 million per year for five years for a total of $ 15 million per hub, is run by a lead university and includes an alliance of at least eight universities. While most of the participating institutions are large research universities, two of the hubs also include a Historically Black College and a university.

The aim of the hubs is to enlarge the national innovation network and to offer academic researchers from all areas of science and technology experience-oriented entrepreneurial training. The hubs will enable researchers to translate basic research results into products that can be brought to market. According to the NSF press release, the hubs are also expected to “work together to build and sustain a diverse and inclusive innovation ecosystem in the US.”

“For 10 years, the NSF I-Corps program has been instrumental in fostering the creative spirit and entrepreneurship that enable NSF-funded research to translate into new products and services and contribute to the country’s economy,” said the deputy Assistant Director of Engineering at NSF Linda Blevins. “I’m excited to launch the first of our I-Corps Hubs, which will lay the foundation for strengthening and scaling this innovation ecosystem, part of our country, and an opportunity for everyone to solve important challenges and fuel economic growth, including new startups and new jobs. “

The I-Corps program was launched in 2011. It aims to connect NSF-funded university science and engineering researchers with the technology, entrepreneurship and business community through the National Innovation Network. A primary goal of the network is to commercialize deep technology resulting from fundamental discoveries in science and technology.

The I-Corps Hubs meet national needs through five areas of responsibility, which the NSF defines as follows:

  • Create and implement tools, resources and training activities that improve the country’s ability to innovate.
  • Identify, develop, and support promising research that can generate economic value.
  • Collect, analyze, evaluate and use the data and insights that emerge from the experiences of participants in local, regional and national I-Corps programs.
  • Offer opportunities to diverse communities of innovators.
  • Share and use effective innovation practices at the national level to improve the quality of life across the country.

The five I-Corps Hubs announced this week are as follows:

NSF I-Corps Hub: Great Lakes Region

  • University of Michigan – Lead
  • Iowa State University
  • Michigan Technological University
  • Missouri University of Science & Technology
  • Purdue University
  • Akron University
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Sister cities of the University of Minnesota
  • The University of Toledo
  • University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

NSF I-Corps Hub: Mid-Atlantic Region

  • University of Maryland, College Park – Lead
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • The George Washington University
  • Howard University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • North Carolina State University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

NSF I-Corps Hub: New York Area

  • The City University of New York – Lead
  • Columbia University
  • Icahn School of Medicine on Mount Sinai
  • New York University
  • Rockefeller University
  • Stevens Institute of Technology
  • Stony Brook University
  • University of Massachusetts Medical School
  • University in Albany

NSF I-Corps Hub: Northeast Region

  • Princeton University – direction
  • State University of Delaware
  • Lehigh University
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology
  • Rowan University
  • Rutgers University
  • Temple University
  • University of Delaware

NSF I-Corps Hub: Western Region

  • University of Southern California – Lead
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Colorado School of Mines
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of California, Riverside
  • University of Colorado Boulder
  • The University of New Mexico
  • The University of Utah

Ultimately, the value of the hubs lies in the extent to which they accelerate the economic effects and social benefits of state-funded research. Will they improve health care, solve environmental problems, advance computing, develop useful technologies, and lead to the development of new materials and technical products? Will they give researchers more opportunities to start businesses based on their discoveries? Will they enable scientists to thrive as entrepreneurs even with backgrounds that have historically been underrepresented in science and technology?

NSF announced that it plans to issue another I-Corps Hubs request in the fall of 2021 to further expand entrepreneurship education and technology translation opportunities in the United States.

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