The National Science Foundation announced on Thursday that it planned to spend $1.25-million this year on a program designed to connect 100 of its university grantees with members of the private sector to help convert academic research into marketable products.
The initiative, called Innovation Corps, or I-Corps, will identify scientific and engineering discoveries that have practical applications from among the NSF's recently financed projects, and provide researchers with additional resources and networking opportunities outside the laboratory.
The public-private partnership arose out of a need to create a more productive relationship between scientists and industry leaders. The NSF aims to use the program to strengthen the national "innovation ecosystem," the foundation's director, Subra Suresh, said during a news conference. NSF officials argue that programs like I-Corps will keep American industries competitive in the global economy, while presenting new challenges that could fuel scientific inquiry.
"To help build a national culture of innovation, and ensure our country's leadership in the global economy, we require sustained investment and research," Mr. Suresh said. "We also require skillful and deliberate catalyzing of the ecosystem so that scientific discoveries have the potential to achieve much greater impact."
In addition to the money from the NSF, companies and private investors will contribute funds to the effort. Each I-Corps venture will receive $50,000 for up to six months (in addition to previous NSF grants) and will be linked with entrepreneurs who will mentor the researchers on ways to turn academic findings into valuable technologies.
More information on the I-Corps program will be announced during an August 2 Webinar on the NSF Web site.