UT Joins I-Corps South to Expand Entrepreneurial Training

September 26, 2016

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will receive grant funding to teach technology entrepreneurship, perform research and foster innovation through the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program.

A public-private partnership, I-Corps was created in 2011 to train researchers to evaluate the commercial potential of their scientific discoveries. The program is offered in a “startup boot camp” format.

“I-Corps [hubs] support the national innovation ecosystem and help some of America’s brightest researchers test the commercial potential of their discoveries,” Grace Wang, acting assistant director for the NSF Directorate for Engineering, said in a statement.

I-Corps South, which started with the Georgia Institute of Technology, is being expanded to include UT and the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. It will receive a collective $3.45 million over five years.

Taylor Eighmy, vice chancellor of research and engagement, will oversee UT’s portion of the grant.

“The University of Tennessee is already a leader within the state in commercializing technology invented in our labs,” Eighmy said. “We look forward to using this grant to leverage our strengths to provide even greater economic impact throughout the state.”

Rhonda Reger will administer the grant under Eighmy’s oversight. She is the Nestle Professor of Business Administration at the Haslam College of Business and research director for the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

“The expansion of the Georgia Tech node to become I-Corps South and serve the southeastern United States will greatly accelerate technology entrepreneurship throughout this growing region,” Reger said.

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development supports programs associated with the grant, said Randy Boyd, that department’s commissioner.

“We will be working with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and LaunchTN, our statewide public-private partnership focused on supporting the development of high-growth companies in Tennessee,” Boyd said. “This type of entrepreneurial training will encourage and grow an innovation ecosystem in this region enhancing commercialization and economic well-being.”

Boyd’s comments reflect the stated goals of I-Corps South. The regional Innovation Corps program aims to accelerate the development of the South’s entrepreneurial ecosystems; provide for increased partnership opportunities between academia and industry; and focus on underrepresented minorities to increase their participation in research pursuits and entrepreneurship.

More information is available at: the I-Corps South website; the National Science Foundation press release about the grant; the UTHaslam College of Business, and Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation websites; the Georgia Institute of Technology VentureLab website; and the University of Alabama I-Corps website.