Kai Nip

Yale has been admitted into the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps Northeast Region Hub. The NSF I-Corps is a group of universities focused on turning their innovative research into commercially successful ventures.

Dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science Jeffrey Brock announced in a Jan. 12 email to the SEAS community that Yale had joined nine other universities in the northeast in the Princeton University-led National Science Foundation’s I-Corps Hub.

In joining the NSF I-Corps, over $260,000 worth of new opportunities are on the horizon for researchers, particularly to those from historically underrepresented communities. The program aims to aid university lab researchers through the process of communicating their beneficial scientific discoveries to the masses, with Yale providing its own scientific and entrepreneurial expertise.

“We are excited to join I-Corps, a forward-looking initiative that aligns perfectly with our School’s commitment to fostering innovation from faculty, staff, and students,” Brock said in his email. “The quickly changing challenges of the 21st century require new and faster ways of getting groundbreaking research out of the lab and to where it will have the most impact.”

The NSF’s I-Corps Hub: Northeast is one of 10 similar hubs throughout the country, each receiving a five-year, $15 million grant provided by the NSF and offering entrepreneurial training to science and engineering students, staff and faculty.

These 10 I-Corps Hubs themselves make up a vast network of research institutions, colleges, entrepreneurial organizations and federal agencies known as the National Innovation Network.

“The addition of NSF I-Corps to our campus innovation ecosystem provides our students and faculty an additional avenue through which to advance discoveries that benefit society,” said Sarah M. Miller, associate dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. 

Miller serves as Yale’s Faculty Lead for the Hub, serving as the University’s primary source of correspondence with the NSF.

In the email announcement, Brock encouraged students to participate in the I-Corps’ first event of 2023, dubbed Propelus. Propelus is a four-session training program intended to help faculty and student researchers alike better explore how their discoveries can meet industrial and personal needs.

The I-Corps program aims to work with a combination of entrepreneurial advisors, instructors and research teams led by experienced scientists with little to no entrepreneurial experience. The I-Corps may help them locate commercial pathways for their products. Using both education and engagement, these teams receive direct contact with professionals in the industry of disruptive technology, catalyzing their road to commercialization.

“Yale’s prominent work, vast experience and strategic resources expand our Hub’s ability to connect with researchers from all backgrounds, including those who traditionally have been underrepresented in academic innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Associate Vice President of the Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships at the University of Delaware and Co-Director of the I-Corps Hub Northeast Region Julius N. Korley in a press release.

With its I-Corps membership, Yale will now receive $268,000 over the next four years to fund its upcoming training projects, which will involve offering entrepreneurial experience to students, staff and faculty in Yale’s science and engineering departments.

However, aside from providing a platform for budding scientific entrepreneurs, the NSF I-Corps Northeast Hub also places a heavy emphasis on representation. While reaping its societal and economic benefits, the program also hopes to “build skills and opportunities among researchers from all backgrounds, including those historically underrepresented in entrepreneurship.”

“We’re especially excited to join the Northeast Hub, led by Princeton, because the partnering universities have placed particular emphasis on inclusion,” Miller said. “SEAS and Yale share this commitment to finding and training the next generation of innovators from all backgrounds, and we’re looking forward to promising collaborations with our new university partners.”

The NSF I-Corps Northeast Hub was launched in August 2021.