Innovation Hubs Will Fund Entrepreneurial Training, Mentoring on Campuses

7 people in facemasks stand in a circle near a wooden pillar with the University at Albany logo
The new ETEC facility will be home to UAlbany's I-Corp teams.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Oct. 19, 2021) — The University at Albany is part of a coalition of higher education institutions sharing in a $15 million federally funded program to bring entrepreneurial training and mentoring to academic researchers and entrepreneurs.

The coalition, called the New York Region Innovation Corps Hub, or I-Corps, is one of five networks established around the country by the National Science Foundation to help researchers of diverse backgrounds bring their scientific and engineering discoveries to the marketplace as commercial ventures that spur economic growth and narrow long-standing racial and gender disparities in the STEM workforce. 

The City University of New York is leading the New York hub, and overseeing the $15 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

“This generous award from the NSF is a clear recognition of the meaningful efforts that CUNY and its partners have made in the past decade to build a framework that nurtures and develops the entrepreneurial spirit of its academic researchers,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “We’re especially looking forward to advancing the talents of our faculty, whose expertise in deep technology and commitment to commercializing discoveries will drive the local economy and energize New York’s recovery.” 

The New York Region I-Corps Hub includes Columbia University and New York University as core partner institutions, and six affiliate schools: the University at Albany, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Rockefeller University, Stevens Institute of Technology, Stony Brook University and UMass Medical School. The NSF’s four other regional university hubs encompass the Great Lakes region (led by the University of Michigan); Mid-Atlantic region (University of Maryland, College Park); Northeast region (Princeton); and the West region (USC). The NSF will disburse the grant funds to CUNY in $3 million increments over the next five years, beginning in January 2022.

Stakeholders from the partner and affiliate institutions said the NSF I-Corps Hub will be a boon to the New York region and its innovators from the academic sector, helping to generate products that bring a tangible societal benefit and spur economic growth.

“In these trying times of a global pandemic and racial tension in our nation, UAlbany stands committed to supporting programs like I-Corps that will enable us to rise to these challenging issues through the implementation and assessment of deep technology and translational research,” said James A. Dias, vice president for research at the University at Albany.

“As we open our new ETEC facility, we are excited to provide this training and guidance to our researchers, students and entrepreneurial community in what will be the hub of commercialization activity for our region,” said Matt Grattan, director of community and economic development at UAlbany.

The New York Region I-Corps Hub will utilize the NSF’s I-Corps model for developing scientific and engineering discoveries into useful technologies. I-Corps teams are composed of a technical lead and an entrepreneurial lead, roles filled by students and faculty members, and a mentor who is an established or emerging industry professional. CUNY and its partner institutions and affiliates are currently in the process of assembling instructors and industry mentors for training programs, and recruiting students and faculty to fill out their I-Corps teams.

Buoyed by $50,000 of seed money from the NSF, the I-Corps teams will work to identify lucrative product opportunities from their academic research and, should commercial opportunities arise, form start-up ventures they will run. CUNY will oversee approximately 30 individual I-Corps teams from the New York Region I-Corps Hub after they’ve been assembled for the program’s launch in January.

The NSF launched the I-Corps program in 2011; since that time, more than 5,700 people have undergone the NSF’s seven-week training course and approximately 1,000 startups have been created that have cumulatively raised more than $760 million in funding.