NSF recognizes that transitioning technology out of an academic laboratory requires skill sets and knowledge that differ from those required for research, and those skills and expertise are much more common in a start-up environment than an academic one. NSF has long supported the development of human capital, and I-Corps will help develop entrepreneurial knowledge and skills in an important new cadre of scientists and engineers.
ASSESSING THE TECHNOLOGY
Over a period of six months, each NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Team will methodically identify and address knowledge gaps to ascertain the technology disposition: What resources will be needed? What are the current solutions? What value will this innovation add?
The formal hypothesis-validation approach will answer questions along the following seven lines:
- Value proposition of the proposed product or service--what customer needs are we satisfying?
- Customer/user use-case and pain point--what are the customer's problems (their pains), and why and how much do they matter?
- Demand creation--what activities are needed to help customers learn about the product and to create a desire in them to buy it?
- Channel development--through what channels do our customers want to be reached, and how does the product get from the company to the customer?
- Revenue model--what strategy will the company use to generate cash from each customer segment?
- Partnership strategy--who are the key partners and suppliers needed to make the business model work (e.g., strategic alliances between non-competitors)?
- Resource requirement--what are the most important assets required (human, intellectual, financial and/or physical) to make the business model work?
I-Corps Teams will fully participate in this approach via the I-Corps curriculum. NSF will provide more information about the curriculum through the monthly I-Corps webinars.
I-Corps Team projects will culminate with participants possessing a clear understanding of what is necessary to achieve an economic impact with a particular innovation. For those projects that are feasible, I-Corps Teams will be ready to transfer the activity to the for-profit sector and pursue support for translational research from, for example, strategic partners, investors, and NSF programs for small businesses.
NSF programs for small businesses include the Small Business Technology Transfer and Small Business Innovation Research programs.