Two universities in Greensboro have received a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to set up a program to support local entrepreneurs in the STEM fields.
UNC-Greensboro and N.C. A&T State University will use the funding to establish an Innovation Corps site in the city. The $500,000 will be given to the program over a period of five years.
The five-week program in Greensboro, which starts in October, is open to UNCG and N.C. A&T students, faculty and alumni, said Justin Streuli, director of the North Carolina Entrepreneurship Center at UNCG and an I-Corps coordinator.
“This is one of the biggest impacts for UNCG and A&T — in terms of developing startups as well as an entrepreneurial culture — we’ve seen in a while,” he said.
The projects the I-Corps site will look to support will be those focused in STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — fields. This includes a portable, biosensor for disease diagnostics, which is being developed by Taylor Mabe, an UNCG Ph.D. student at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering.
Mabe is working to develop the device with Jianjun Wei, an associate professor at UNCG. He said he is participating in the I-Corps program to develop business skills.
Mabe said the program will also help the team determine which diagnostic tests they should focus on when preparing the device to be commercialized.
“We’re pretty confident in the technology but we don’t know which way to take it,” he said. “We’re hoping the discovery process will lead us to the right fit for the technology.”
The I-Corps site will operate out of HQ Greensboro, a co-working space, and will support 30 entrepreneurial teams this year. I-Corps will provide teams with grants ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 to help fund customer discovery activities, developing prototypes and other expenses, Streuli said.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between NSF I-Corps and UNCG-NC A&T I-Corps program?
The NSF (National Science Foundation) I-Corps is a national program. It provides funding which is disbursed to institutions to promote science and innovation. The UNCG-A&T I-Corps program is a part of the NSF's Innovation Corps intiative, which is a regional program to benefit Greensboro and the Triad by spurring innovation and entrepreneurship.
What will this program look like?
There will be five cohorts of students and faculty, the first of which begins in Octoboer. Each cohort will last 5 weeks, during which each team (generally 3 UNCG-A&T students and/or faculy members) will have to meet at least 30 potential buyers of the product or servce that your team will develop. Funding will be granted to help defray cost associated with these meetings, such as travel and lodging expenses. Upon successful completion of the program, we sincerely encourage our I-Corps graduates to apply for the national program once they meet the minimum requirements.
I have a great idea, but how will this program help me implement it?
This program will provide structured mentorship and funding to further your team's business or research ideas. In addition to the funding that each team is granted, each of the 30 meetings that your team holds throughout the program will yield invaluable information. The mentorship component is provided every Friday during the program, when each of the teams meet at HQ Greensboro and discuss the successes and meetings each respective group has had and held.
Is the entire team required to participate in the seminars, workshops, and on-site assignments?
Yes, every member of the team must be fully immersed in the process and committed to the time and tasks required.
What should I do about my IP or patent pending?
Although confidentiality is a requirement of the program, we highly recommend you consult with UNCG's North Carolina Entrepreneurship Center (NCEC) or the Innovation Partnetship Services Office (IPSO) to discuss any concerns you may have prior to applying. Both are located on the first floor of the MHRA building on UNCG's campus.
Will my idea qualify for this program?
Great question! You should never be afriad to contact Justin Streuli with any questions you have regarding the UNCG-A&T I-Corps program. You can also check the requirements of the NSF I-Corps program here: https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=504672
Can you help me find a team or a mentor?
Yes, contact the NCEC today!
When does the next cohort begin?
For Cohort 1, the Kickoff Workshop will be held Friday, October 13th, from 3:00 to 6:00pm at HQ Greensboro. The intermediate meetings will be held every Friday, at the same time and location. The Closing Workshop will be held Friday, November 17th.
As a prerequisite for participating in the I-Corps program, all team members are required to watch a set of videos that are integrated into the Friday classroom sessions. All videos feature Steve Blank, a legendary startup leader who developed the "Lean Launchpad Methodology," serving as the basis of the I-Corps Program.
Business Model Canvas
Pre-Planning Customer Discovery
Customer Discovery Interviews
Outside the Building
Customers Lie (2:37)
The Distracted Customer (3:12)
Engaging the Customer (3:37)
Customer Empathy (2:25)
Multi-Person Interview (2:03)
B-to-B to C (2:15)
Existing vs. New Markets (5:29)
Public Interviews (2:11)
Back in the Building
Extracting Insight From Data (2:59)
Getting the MVP Right (3:34)
Pay Attention to Outliers (2:16)
The "Other 85%" (2:32)