I-Corps South program team members recently traveled to the Republic of Ireland as part of a two-day training curriculum to prepare 24 Irish teams for a year-long program focused on supporting ideas and technologies that address societal challenges.
Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) invited the I-Corps South team to Dublin to explain how to develop a mission model and how to engage in meaningful and objective customer discovery. It’s the second consecutive year that SFI has invited the I-Corps South staff to lead this workshop.
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 South provides evidence-based entrepreneurship education and support to commercialize startups, as well as training, resources, and an active network to regional research universities across the Southeast and the U.S. island territory of Puerto Rico.
“SFI is currently working to build out its evidenced-based entrepreneurship programming,” said Sara Henderson, I-Corps South program designer. “They are basing their programs on the lean startup methodology and sought out our team to help them train their teams, given our experience in teaching the methodology to students and faculty across the Southeast and at NSF I-Corps Teams Cohorts.”
The I-Corps South team — Executive Director Keith McGreggor, Program Manager Melissa Heffner, and Henderson — worked with the Irish teams, which were all focused on various aspects of artificial intelligence (AI) or zero emissions for societal good.
Among some of the project ideas:
- AI for fetal wellbeing
- Non-surgical treatment for lung cancer using AI
- Creating a carbon-neutral resilient dairy farm
- Hybrid bio-solar reactors for wastewater treatment and carbon dioxide recycling
“It was a great experience and the teams were all focused on projects that have potential to effect positive societal change,” Henderson said.
In addition to the Mission Model Canvas and stakeholder discovery training they received from I-Corps South, the Irish teams also received coaching on the Theory of Change from Social Innovation Fund Ireland.
“Several of the teams will be filtered out at the end of March after the first phase of the program, which is focused on them conducting rapid stakeholder and beneficiary research,” Henderson said. “The remaining teams will advance to the next phase and will support their projects with additional research and work on their solutions through the end of 2020.”
SFI and NSF have an agreement in place allowing SFI to send teams to the I-Corps Teams program.
In the last couple of years, SFI has leveraged Georgia Tech for I-Corps training for their teams 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.