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Dartmouth Joins NSF I-Corps Hub: Interior Northeast Region

Sep 08, 2022   |   by Eun Lee Koh

Dartmouth has joined nine regional university partners to form a new National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Hub aimed at accelerating innovation and translation of research discoveries to the marketplace.

The Interior Northeast I-Corps Hub is representative of large portions of the US that are predominantly rural, economically underserved, and struggling to reduce out-migration and restore economic vitality after the decline of manufacturing and extractive industries. It is also rich in natural resources, open space, and strong research universities.

NSF will fund $15 million over five years for the implementation of the Interior Northeast (IN) I-Corps Hub, set to launch January 1, 2023. The new hub will support a region that stretches from New Hampshire to West Virginia, with focus on largely rural, economically underserved communities. 

Dartmouth will be joined by Hub partner institutions Rochester Institute of Technology, SUNY Binghamton, SUNY Buffalo, Syracuse University, University of Pittsburgh, University of Rochester, University of Vermont, West Virginia University and Hub lead Cornell University. Each institution will be hosting regional I-Corps courses and contributing to programming and curriculum strategy.

"We are grateful to the National Science Foundation for supporting Dartmouth and our partners' efforts to empower our students and scholars with entrepreneurial skills for the successful transfer of new discoveries and inventions out of our labs into the market and into the hands of the people who need it most. The emphasis on human-centered engineering and science is a hallmark of Dartmouth and often results in the creation of start-up companies focused on innovation that truly benefits society."

Eric Fossum, Vice Provost for Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer

NSF logo

The IN I-Corps Hub joins nine other I-Corps Hubs within NSF's National Innovation Network (NIN) in expanding the geographical reach by creating a cohesive innovation ecosystem that delivers inclusive models of education and workforce training designed for and by innovators in rural regions and small cities.

As part of the new IN I-Corps Hub, Dartmouth is poised to scale impact on a national level in partnership with its regional university partners and the national network of I-Corps Hubs. 

Dartmouth already has a track record of supporting entrepreneurship and innovation through the Magnuson Center for Entrepreneurship, which serves Dartmouth students, faculty, and alumni engaged in the path between entrepreneurial thinking and doing. The Dartmouth I-Corps Sites program, funded by the NSF since 2016, has supported numerous Dartmouth faculty, students, and researchers, who have launched start-ups stemming from research in Dartmouth laboratories—ranging from technologies that focus on women's health to rapid diagnostic tools for infectious diseases and more.

"The NSF-funded I-Corps Site at Dartmouth has been an important driver of start-up formation supporting over 90 teams comprised of over 200 individuals in defining their value proposition and customer. We look forward to collaborating with partners to create tools, resources, and training for entrepreneurial work, identify and support promising research, and provide opportunities to diverse communities of innovators."

Professor Laura Ray, Investigator, NSF I-Corps Site grant/Hub award

A mission-critical element of the IN I-Corps Hub's approach to entrepreneurship is the creation and administration of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) initiatives. STEM researchers in underrepresented groups face heightened barriers to success, and creating equitable access to resources and talent development is crucial to ensuring the most innovative deep-tech developments are being discovered and amplified. Hub leadership and partners are working to actively create opportunities to support the development of STEM research talent who are women, veterans, people of color, and individuals with disabilities. These initiatives will include collaborations with organizations like the National GEM Consortium's Inclusion in Innovation Initiative (i4) and RIT's National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

"We have a solid track record of supporting teams that include individuals underrepresented in science and engineering as team leads or members, and we look forward to building on our success through Hub DEIA initiatives" said Caroline Cannon, Dartmouth's lead I-Corps instructor who has also mentored dozens of teams.

The IN I-Corps Hub will offer regional courses designed to support geographically-dispersed participants in learning the I-Corps method of customer discovery and applying it to real world opportunities, while still remaining connected to their home institutions and communities.

Founded by NSF in 2011, I-Corps programming nationwide empowers researchers to combine their technical and scientific knowledge with an entrepreneurial mindset to develop new technologies and startups that benefit society. The I-Corps curriculum addresses the knowledge gap between the skills needed to develop an innovative technology in a lab and the skills needed to bring that technology to market. With a core tenet of customer discovery, participants in I-Corps courses work to connect with potential customers and ensure the solutions they’re developing fill an existing market need.

Details are forthcoming for STEM researchers interested in learning about opportunities to participate in regional I-Corps courses at a Hub institution.

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