Georgia Tech works with Irish researchers on innovation methodologies

Melissa Heffner, I-Corps South program manager, leads a discussion on evidence-based entrepreneurship at the Science Foundation Ireland in Dublin. (Photo: Keith McGreggor)

Melissa Heffner, I-Corps South program manager, leads a discussion on evidence-based entrepreneurship at the Science Foundation Ireland in Dublin. (Photo: Keith McGreggor)

Wanting to tap into the Georgia Institute of Technology’s expertise in innovation and commercialization processes and methodology, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) recently hosted two lead managers of Tech’s I-Corps program lead managers in Dublin to train a group of research teams developing technologies with a focus on societal impact.

 

SFI invited Keith McGreggor and Melissa Heffner to lead the Jan. 29 workshop series as part of the organization’s Future Innovator Prize project, which is aimed at supporting the development of disruptive ideas and technologies to address societal challenges.

 

The 12 teams were focused on various projects ranging from biomedical devices to diagnostics and all had ideas for a product that could address a particular challenge or process that could be improved.

 

“We were invited to come over to because of our experience as a leading institution in teaching the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program,” Heffner said. “They wanted us to explain and discuss how to develop a business model and how we do customer discovery and how that process is critical to objectively seeing what kind of societal impact these SFI teams could have with their projects and research theses.”

 

The NSF’s I-Corps program — a boot camp that shows what it’s like to form a startup — helps NSF-funded researchers learn how to commercialize their findings and determine if a market actually exists for what they developed.

 

“Our work in Ireland was focused on preparing these team to have the conversations and interviews with potential customers to determine if the problem they feel exists actually does and how they can solve that challenge,” Heffner said.

 

“Identifying what you think is a problem is only one part of the equation. But researchers need to go out and talk to potential customers and users to understand if what they see as a challenge truly exists the way they think it does and how their proposed solutions should ultimately be designed to provide the greatest degree of societal impact.”

 

Heffner worked on a similar project with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016.

 

Georgia Tech — through its VentureLab incubator program — is an I-Corps node and teaches entrepreneurship, and research and innovation methodologies.

 

Because of its long experience with forming companies from university research, Georgia Tech — through its VentureLab incubator — was selected in 2012 to be among the first institutions to become “nodes” teaching the I-Corps curriculum.

 

VentureLab is Tech’s technology commercialization incubator that primarily serves Tech faculty, staff, and students who seek to launch startup companies from the technology innovations they have developed.

 

McGreggor serves as VentureLab’s director and is executive director of I-Corps South, whichincludes Tech, the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Haslam College of Business.

 

In the last several years, SFI has sent a few teams to Tech for I-Corps training and Tech has led similar sessions for the Centers for Disease Control. The government of Mexico in 2018, through its National Council on Science and Technology (CONACYT), sent more than a dozen university-based instructors to Tech to learn the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and how to build and maintain such programs at their schools.

 

The effort in Ireland underscores the Institute’s international reputation for commercialization expertise and supports its efforts to further its reach in Europe, McGreggor said.

 

“We want to leverage our presence in Europe with our Georgia Tech Lorraine campus in Metz, France, to do more entrepreneurship education across the continent,” McGreggor said. “Our work in Ireland and our relationship with SFI is a good example of our global impact and reach in our I-Corps programming and our evidence-based entrepreneurship. They want to work with us because of our strength in it.”

 

I-Corps South hosts group from Mexico for entrepreneurship training academy

I-Corps South I-Corps Mexico

Georgia Tech’s I-Corps South program hosted team of instructors from Mexico for two days of training and education to learn about entrepreneurship processes in commercializing their research. (Photo: Miriam Huppert)

The Georgia Institute of Technology’s I-Corps South program recently hosted 17 university-based instructors from Mexico for a two-day training session to teach them the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and how to build and maintain such programs at their schools.

 

“This is the I-Corps South Instructor Academy, which prepares instructors on how to teach the I-Corps methodology,” said Melissa Heffner, an I-Corps program manager.

 

The instructors came under the sponsorship of the National Council on Science and Technology (CONACYT), which is charged with coordinating and promoting Mexico’s scientific and technologic development, she said.

 

I-Corps South is a partnership of Georgia Tech, the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama in Birmingham, and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business.

 

Keith McGreggor I-Corps South

Keith McGreggor (standing), executive director of I-Corps South at Georgia Tech, leads an education session on entrepreneurship. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

Its main objective is to provide entrepreneurs in the Southeast and Puerto Rico with consistent instruction on the principles of evidence-based entrepreneurship, said Keith McGreggor, I-Corps South’s executive director.

 

With universities, I-Corps South offers the tools, support, and resources required to launch and maintain high-quality evidence-based entrepreneurship programs across the Southeast and Puerto Rico.

 

While university researchers often develop great ideas, they don’t always know how to take their findings from the lab to the marketplace, McGreggor said.

 

I-Corps Mexico — created in 2012 and based on the U.S.’s  National Science Foundation’s model — aims to ensure that research developed by scientists in Mexico lead to greater societal impact. The I-Corps Mexico program was the first time that the training model was applied outside the United States.

 

“Mexico’s I-Corps program recently expanded to 8 nodes from 5 and CONACYT wanted a more formal program for this expansion,” Heffner said, explaining why the organization selected Georgia Tech’s program to conduct the training for the Mexican instructors.

 

“I-Corps South first offered a training course in 2016, and since then we’ve built out and augmented the program,” Heffner said. “To date, we’ve offered the program six times and have trained 25 instructors from 11 different universities.”

 

Additionally, I-Corps South has been asked to submit a proposal to the NSF to develop and conduct training courses for NSF I-Corps Sites instructors across the United States, at more than 80 sites.

I-Corps South hosts regional summit at Georgia Tech

Keith McGreggor

Keith McGreggor (standing), I-Corps South node co-principal investigator and executive director, greets attendees of the I-Corps South Regional Summit at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, April 25, 2018. (Photo: Péralte C. Paul)

The Innovation Corps (I-Corps) South node at the Georgia Institute of Technology hosted a regional summit of 12 universities from the South centered on furthering and encouraging greater commercialization of ideas fostered in university labs and classrooms.

 

The daylong, April 25 summit, which included schools from North and South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Georgia, was designed to allow the different schools to share best practices and lessons learned from ongoing initiatives and plan growth and development strategies.

 

“When we say innovation, we often only think of certain parts of the country,” Keith McGreggor, the I-Corps South node co-principal investigator and executive director, told the roughly two dozen attendees. “But there’s a lot of innovation and potential occurring here in Georgia and across the South and we want to continue to foster and develop that.”

 

The I-Corps program, a public-private partnership program established in 2011 by the National Science Foundation (NSF), connects NSF-funded scientific research with the technological, entrepreneurial, and business communities to help create a stronger national ecosystem for innovation that couples scientific discovery with technology development and societal needs.

 

The I-Corps South node, established in 2016, is a partnership of Georgia Tech, the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama in Birmingham, and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business. I-Corps South works and partners with university students and research faculty at schools in 10 states from the South and the U.S. island territory of Puerto Rico to teach entrepreneurship, support research and innovation. Through this collaboration, the node has the potential to reach more than 500,000 graduate and undergraduate students, and many thousands of the nation’s research faculty at research universities and historically black colleges and universities across the Southeast and Puerto Rico.

 

To entrepreneurs, I-Corps South seeks to provide consistent instruction on the principles of evidence-based entrepreneurship in the style of I-Corps. Instruction is direct and challenging, keeping in mind the goal of holding entrepreneurs accountable to know their customers. To universities, the node seeks to provide the tools, support, and resources required to launch and maintain high-quality evidence-based entrepreneurship programs across the southeast.

 

“I-Corps allows you to grow entrepreneurial ecosystems where the entrepreneurs are, at your schools and communities,” McGreggor said. “What we want to do today is share our ideas and explore opportunities to partner with each other to see how we can work together to further build and develop an entrepreneurial ecosystem of the South.”