Nakia Melecio to lead Innovation Lab effort at Enterprise Innovation Institute

Headshot off Nakia Melecio.
Nakia Melecio head’s Innovation Lab at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. (PHOTO: Péralte Paul)

Nakia Melecio, senior research faculty and director of the Center for MedTech Excellence at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, will lead a new effort focused on economic development support for life science companies and bioscience commercialization and ecosystem building.

Melecio, who has also served as the deep tech catalyst in the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s ATDC startup incubator, will lead Innovation Lab, which encompasses new business development efforts in the life sciences and biosciences sectors. It will also include his current program work and the Innovation Lab initiative centers on three core activities:

  • Grow healthcare research, innovation, and workforce development practice
  • Expand EI2 Global’s international footprint
  • Support VentureLab’s National Science Foundation I-Corps activities

“Nakia has been instrumental in helping to expand Georgia’s life sciences community and ecosystem,” said David Bridges, vice president of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, which serves as Georgia Tech’s chief economic development arm. “Leading Innovation Lab already builds on a foundation he created since joining us in 2019 and further supports our broad economic development mission.”

He’s already leading in the healthcare research practice expansion with his work in with the MedTech Center and running the ScaleUp Lab Program for deep tech innovation.

Under Melecio’s leadership as founding director, the MedTech Center, which has the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership and Global Center for Medical Innovation as partners, has worked with and evaluated the innovations of more than 200 companies. Since launching in 2021, the MedTech Center’s 66 active startups have raised $13.1 million in investment capital and an additional $6.4 million in federal, non-dilutive funding grants.

In 2023 the MedTech Center was selected to join the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health’s ARPA-H Investor Catalyst Hub to accelerate the commercialization of practical, accessible biomedical solutions.

He is supporting Georgia Tech’s efforts to collaborate with Atlanta University Center schools — Spelman College, Clark-Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and the Morehouse School of Medicine — to collaborate with those minority serving institutions as they build out capacity for their scientists and researchers to create more life sciences technology companies, following an award from the Economic Development Administration.

Similarly, Melecio is working with the University of Alabama at Birmingham in a collaborative project in the biologics and medical device areas to move more of its researchers’ innovations out of the lab and into commercial markets.

As Innovation Lab lead, Melecio, who has secured more than $5.76 million in federal grants and awards to Georgia Tech, will also work to develop biomanufacturing partnerships for Georgia Tech.

With EI2 Global, the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s program that fosters economic opportunity through collaborations with universities, innovators, governments, and nonprofit organizations worldwide, Melecio will serve as an instructor on Lab-to-Market and CREATE-X programming for entrepreneurs. He will also create and provide educational content for EI2 Global’s university and ecosystem partners.

More regionally, his Innovation Lab work includes ongoing projects as a principal in VentureLab, a program of Georgia Tech’s Office of Commercialization. In that capacity, he will work on VentureLab’s National Science Foundation-related Innovation Corps (I-Corps) programming. Those efforts, overseen by Commercialization Vice President Raghupathy “Siva” Sivakumar, includes the NSF I-Corps Hub Academy where Melecio will serve as director.

“Our efforts with Innovation Lab are really centered around finding new opportunities, new markets, and new industries by leveraging our areas of expertise at the Enterprise Innovation Institute and Georgia Tech to build economic development capacity in the life sciences and biosciences space,” Melecio said.

“We’re looking to take a broader perspective away from being hyper focused in one or two niche areas in life sciences to ensure that we maximize opportunities to support new ideas, build stronger practice areas in this space, and secure funding to bring those innovations to scale.”

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.”

National Science Foundation awards Georgia Institute of Technology $500,000 grant to further Institute’s commercialization efforts

Funding to support I-Corps Sites teams formed from Georgia Tech research.

Free headshot
Paul Freet is VentureLab’s NSF I-Corps instructor.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has named the Georgia Institute of Technology an Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Site — and awarded it a $500,000 grant to help Institute-based research teams identify and interview target customer audiences.

 

The grant, spread over five years, will be managed by Tech’s VentureLab program. VentureLab is Georgia Tech’s incubator that works with Institute faculty, staff, and students to evaluate their research and help them create startups based on those findings.

 

I-Corps Sites enable academic institutions to catalyze teams whose technology concepts are likely candidates for commercialization. It also provides infrastructure, advice, resources, networking opportunities, training, and funding to help researchers move from idea to commercialization.

 

At Georgia Tech, the I-Corps Sites grant will support up to 150 research teams — comprised of Institute students, faculty, researchers, or staff — in their efforts to meet with and interview potential customers, said Paul Freet, VentureLab’s NSF I-Corps instructor.

 

“A key part of the commercialization process is learning from customers— what I-Corps calls customer discovery,” Freet said. “We ask our research teams to search for evidence of product-market-fit and learn if there is a market for the commercialization of their research.”

 

All I-Corps Sites teams are expected to conduct 20 customer interviews. To help teams accomplish that goal, Georgia Tech teams accepted into the program will be reimbursed with up to $3,000 for travel to visit customers or attend trade shows.

 

Teams that complete the I-Corps Sites program also will have access to follow-on $50,000 I-Corps Team grants. To date, Georgia Tech researchers have received more than 50 I-Corps Team grants.

 

“The I-Corps program has been instrumental in helping launch a startup based on my research into advanced materials,” said Krista Walton, professor and Robert “Bud” Moeller Faculty Fellow in the Georgia Tech School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering. “Early feedback from potential customers was critical in setting the direction of our startup. The I-Corps Sites grant will help get more researchers out of the lab and in front of customers.”

 

About VentureLab:

Created in 2001 and ranked as the No. 2 university startup incubator in the world, VentureLab is the Georgia Institute of Technology’s incubator whose mission is to collaborate with faculty, staff, and students to create startups based on Tech research. Using evidence-based entrepreneurship, VentureLab —a program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, Tech’s chief economic development arm — has supported the launch of more than 300 startups. Combined, those startups have raised more than $1.5 billion in investments. For more information, visit venturelab.gatech.edu.

National Science Foundation Awards Georgia Institute of Technology’s VentureLab a 5-year I-Corps Grant

Node2-1By Péralte C. Paul

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a $3.4 million Innovation Corps (I-Corps) grant to the Georgia Institute of Technology’s VentureLab program to expand its work in teaching entrepreneurship, support research and innovation.

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.

 

“I-Corps nodes 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. “We are thrilled to support these regional innovation hotbeds, which will help to foster local economic development and expand access to more researchers of all different backgrounds who seek entrepreneurship training.”

 

The grant, one of five the NSF awarded to schools across the country, supports innovation hubs called I-Corps nodes.

 

This new NSF grant expands Georgia Tech’s efforts and creates the I-Corps South Node, which includes Tech, the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Haslam College of Business.

 

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 Georgia 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.

 

“This effort underscores Georgia Tech’s economic development mission and commitment to creating the next generation of entrepreneurial problem solvers,” said Chris Downing, who is the I-Corps South Node’s principal investigator and vice president of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), Tech’s chief economic development and extension outreach arm. “Through our collective service efforts to entrepreneurs, business, researchers, and innovators, Georgia Tech and our partner schools in Alabama and Tennessee are working together to design a foundation of regional innovation in the Southeast.”

 

Specifically, the I-Corps South Node aims to:

  • Accelerate the development of the South’s entrepreneurial ecosystems
  • Provide for increased partnership opportunities between academia and industry
  • Focus on underrepresented minorities through programs at historically black colleges and universities and in Puerto Rico to increase the participation of individuals from those communities in research pursuits and entrepreneurship

 

“We are extremely excited to partner with these three premier schools to collectively leverage our extensive industry relationships, partnerships, mentors, and funding connections to bring economic development through startup formation, workforce development, and entrepreneurial education,” said Keith McGreggor, VentureLab director and I-Corps South Node co-principal investigator and executive director.

 

“Through this partnership, the I-Corps South 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 the island of Puerto Rico.”

 

NSF created the I-Corps program in 2011 and since then, more than 800 teams have completed the NSF curriculum, from 192 universities in 44 states. That’s resulted in the creation of more than 320 companies that have collectively raised more than $83 million in follow-on funding.

 

At Georgia Tech, more than 40 teams have finished the I-Corps program, leading to the creation of more than 20 spinouts that have collectively raised more than $4.5 million in follow-up funding.

 

About VentureLab:

VentureLab — ranked as North America’s No. 5 university-based startup incubator — is Georgia Tech’s technology commercialization program that provides comprehensive assistance to faculty, staff, and students who want to form startups. VentureLab helps those entrepreneurs turn their ideas into early-stage companies through business model development, making connections between the innovators and seasoned entrepreneurs, locating sources of early-stage financing, and preparing these fledgling startups for the business world. Since its 2001 founding, VentureLab — a program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, Georgia Tech’s chief economic development arm — has launched more than 250 technology companies that have attracted more than $1.5 billion in outside funding. Visit venturelab.gatech.edu for more information. For additional information about I-Corps South, visit icorpssouth.com.

 

About NSF I-Corps: 

The NSF I-Corps program, a public-private partnership program established in 2011, 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. Visit www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/i-corps/ for more information.