Closing the divide: accelerating technology commercialization by catalyzing the university entrepreneurial ecosystem with I-Corps™
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In recent years, universities have seen an increasing amount of activity in entrepreneurship and commercialization, not only for students, but for faculty as well. Traditionally, these initiatives have been separate, such that programs and curriculum have been focused on supporting just students or just faculty. In 2012, the National Science Foundation (NSF) launched the NSF I-Corps™ program, an innovative funding program that not only offered principle investigators (PIs) funding, but also exposed PIs to an innovation/entrepreneurship curriculum as well. The University of Michigan (U-M) was one of the first two NSF I-Corps™ Nodes funded in 2012 and has leveraged the program to catalyze the entrepreneurial ecosystem. This paper describes the growth of this entrepreneurial ecosystem since 1983, the call of entrepreneurship in the U-M College of Engineering and describes the role the U-M NSF I-Corps™ program has played across the university. The paper concludes with lessons learned and recommendations to administrators and policy makers considering more active promotion of academic entrepreneurship and commercialization in universities.
KeywordsResearcher entrepreneur University commercialization I-Corps™ Technology commercialization Entrepreneurial ecosystem
JEL ClassificationL26 O3
The authors would like to acknowledge the significant contributions of Norm Rapino in the launch of I-Corps at U-M and Jed Taylor and Matthew Lynall in conceptualizing I-Corps 2.0. The authors would also like to thank Andrew Cho and Gurhari Singh for their help with data collection. The U-M I-Corps™ Node is funded by NSF-DUE 1240409 and NSF-DIIP-1643280. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) also provided support for regional expansion.
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