staff, staff, June 14, 2015

A new program at the University of Iowa has put out a statewide call for thinkers, creatives, inventors and entrepreneurs who want to see their fields of dreams become realities. And backed by a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the school appears poised to unveil a fresh crop of innovative technologies for the consumer marketplace.

Iowa_ICorpsAccording David Hensley, the grant?s co-investigator, the I-Corps program will capitalize on Iowa?s strong track record for turning ideas on blackboards and in labs into successful commercial ventures.

?In looking at a college campus and looking at the research that happens, it?s a natural fit,? Hensley said of I-Corps. ?It expands on the training and networking and focuses on accelerating the commercialization of and new processes that are done by research on campus.?

The game plan for I-Corps on the Iowa City campus is to nurture student and faculty inventors and product developers? business savvy. The ultimate goal is to see entrepreneurial visions developed into successful commercial ventures.

Essentially, the way the program works is by pairing researchers and inventors from the school with a business mentor and an entrepreneurial lead to receive training and create financially viable start-up companies.

It?s an interesting and ambitious concept that Hensley said is well worth the risk. From his vantage as executive director of Iowa?s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center and associate vice president for economic development in Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic development, he sees the I-Corps program as an ultimate team-building exercise.

?There are a couple of challenges when you are bringing together different people from different backgrounds like scientists and business professionals to work as a team,? Hensley said. ?We are not just talking about scientific merits. Does the marketplace want this [product]? We might have to pivot a little bit from a commercial standpoint to find out if this is something the public wants.?

To help researchers get started, the I-Corps program is set to provide small grants for up to 30 teams aiming to turn their research discoveries into gold. On top of that, the program is making a concerted effort to open the doors to female researchers and inventors, Hensley said.

I-Corps will build on the school?s well-established history for turning ideas into successful start-up ventures, Hensley said. He points to the local companies HLT and IDx as prime examples of start-ups born on the Iowa City campus.

[btn-post-package]The first I-Corps training programs, which will last 7-8 weeks, are expected to start in Fall 2015, according to Hensley. Beyond that, teams will receive additional mentoring, business-plan development assistance and access to start-up capital as their ventures take flight.

The NSF grant will provide $100,000 annually to Iowa?s I-Corps program for three years. In that time, Hensley hopes some success stories emerge from the new opportunity.

?We have a lot of connections through our alumni network,? Hensley said. ?We want to find the best talent to mentor these I-Corps teams, and find angel investors and investor funds from around the region and state to wrap those resources around the teams. I think [the state] has the business training, acumen and financial resources to develop their research ideas and technologies with start-ups that can change people?s lives.?

By Tony Moton