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NSF Launches Innovation Advancement Program

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Science Foundation today launched a program to support the swift development and advancement of useful new technologies by providing funding, consulting, guidance, and networking to previous NSF awardees.

The NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program is a public-private partnership that will link NSF-funded researchers with technological, entrepreneurial, and business communities in order to "create a stronger national ecosystem for innovation that couples scientific discovery with technology development and societal needs," NSF said today.

The program initially will support up to 100 projects per year with $50,000 per project, and will provide mentor volunteers to create a network of expertise to help awardees translate their discoveries into successful technologies.

"The United States has a long history of investing in — and deploying — technological advances derived from a foundation of basic research," NSF Director Subra Suresh said in a statement.

"And the NSF mission connects advancing the nation's prosperity and welfare with our passionate pursuit of scientific knowledge. I-Corps will help strengthen a national innovation ecosystem that firmly unites industry with scientific discoveries for the benefit of society," Suresh added.

In a NSF meeting for the press today John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said that the NSF program is aimed at supporting the full array of technologies that have been and will be drivers of American success, business, and innovation, including biotechnology, genetics, and medical sciences that are "extending and improving our lives."

Under the program, each I-Corps team, which includes an investigator, a mentor, and an entrepreneurial lead, will identify and address knowledge gaps concerning important questions about the technology, such as: What resources will be required? What are the competing technologies? What value will this innovation add?

NSF expects that the I-Corps projects will result in new startup businesses, license agreements, Small Business Innovation Research grant proposals, business plans that are ready for investor review, students with entrepreneurial skills, and new or enhanced educational curricula.

The program also will use innovative merit review processes to enable promising NSF-funded discoveries to be "identified quickly and efficiently for financial support, as well as for mentorship through the national network," NSF said.

To monitor and evaluate progress, NSF will maintain a closed wiki environment accessible only to NSF and the project team.

Two lead collaborators on the program include the Kauffman Foundation and the Deshpande Foundation.

NSF plans to host a webinar about the program on Aug. 2. More information is available at the I-Corps website.

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