NSF Awards UMD $15M to Lead Mid-Atlantic Innovation Hub

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UMD will lead a multi-institutional hub, funded by a $15 million grant from the National Science Foundation, to train science and engineering researchers in entrepreneurship to bolster U.S. leadership in innovation. (Illustration by Shutterstock)

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has selected the University of Maryland to lead one of five multi-institutional hubs that will provide entrepreneurial training to academic researchers in science and engineering in order to foster and maintain U.S. global leadership in innovation.

The $15 million I-Corps Hubs, funded over five years, will extend the foundation’s Innovation Corps, or I-Corps, program that helps researchers commercialize their technologies and translate the impact of their work to the broader public. Each regional hub will include at least eight universities. 

The Hubs will create tools, resources and training activities; identify and support promising research that can generate economic value; provide opportunities to diverse communities of innovators; and share and leverage effective innovation practices on a national scale.

“The University of Maryland has been deeply involved in the I-Corps program since the NSF created it a decade ago, and it has been instrumental in the rapidly growing innovation ecosystem in our region,” said UMD President Darryll J. Pines. “I’m pleased we will continue this great work as we partner with some of the largest and most prestigious institutions in the mid-Atlantic to help transform innovative research into scalable and sustainable solutions for society.”

UMD received its first grant from the I-Corps program in 2013 to lead the DC-I-Corps node, the precursor to the Hub program. The Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship oversees the university’s I-Corps programs and workshops through a collaboration with the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech), A. James Clark School of Engineering, UM Ventures, Division of Research, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship and others.

Dean Chang, associate vice president for innovation and entrepreneurship at UMD, will serve as the primary investigator on the new NSF award, and Dan Kunitz, Mtech’s director of venture strategy and development in the Clark School, will serve as co-PI and hub director. Edmund Pendleton, who also has an appointment in Mtech, will serve as the Hub’s lead instructor. All three were involved in leading I-Corps programs for NSF alongside Pines when he served as Clark School dean.

“Winning this I-Corps Hub is a testament to our truly collaborative effort including many talented and diverse partners and people from every corner of campus,” said Chang. “Without that diversity and collaboration, the innovation process just wouldn't be as rich or impactful.”

Other universities joining UMD in the mid-Atlantic I-Corps Hub include Carnegie Mellon University, George Washington University, Howard University, Johns Hopkins University, North Carolina State University, Penn State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Pennsylvania and Virginia Tech. 

The I-Corps Hubs form the new operational backbone of the National Innovation Network, a network of universities, NSF-funded researchers, established entrepreneurs, local and regional entrepreneurial communities, and other federal agencies that helps researchers learn how to translate fundamental research results to the marketplace. The Hubs will work collaboratively to build and sustain a diverse and inclusive innovation ecosystem throughout the U.S. 

NSF plans to issue a new I-Corps Hubs solicitation in Fall 2021 to continue to expand opportunities for entrepreneurship education and technology translation throughout the United States. For more information on the five I-Corps Hubs announced this week, and participating institutions, visit https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/i-corps/hubs.jsp.

This story originally appeared on Maryland Today.

Published August 25, 2021