NSF recognizes that transitioning technology out of an academic laboratory requires a skill set and knowledge base 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 I-Corps Team will methodically identify and address knowledge gaps to determine the potential market value of the technology by answering questions such as: 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 monthly I-Corps webinars.
Upon the completion of I-Corps, teams will possess a clear understanding of what next steps are needed to begin the commercialization of a particular innovation. For those where commercialization is immediately 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 -- the Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer programs.
For those innovations that need further refinement for the marketplace, NSF supports technology translation through the PFI:AIR-TT (Partnership for Innovation: Accelerating Innovation Research – Technology Translation) program.