The National Science Foundation has hit some grand slams in its day: Research projects funded by the federal agency have gone on to become Google (GOOG), Netscape and the Internet itself.
Noting that the federal government spends $60 billion annually on university research, he called the $18.8 million request "a very small expenditure to make sure the people getting those grants are given the best opportunity to turn their research into new products, new companies and new jobs."
The NSF is proposing to double the number of participating teams to 200 next year and more than double its investment to nearly $19 million. This fall, Blank said, I Corps will branch out to Georgia Tech and the University of Michigan, with more universities to follow if Congress approves funding.
of the goals behind the foundation's establishment in 1950.
"Silicon Valley's been doing this for 50 years, and we think we've cracked the entrepreneurship code," said Steve Blank, the Stanford startup lecturer who's leading the effort.
Participants in the NSF's Innovation Corps spent three days on campus last month pitching their ideas to a panel of venture capitalists and Stanford faculty everything from improved wastewater treatment to wall climbing robots that inspect and clean skyscrapers. Over the next two months, they'll be dialing into weekly webcasts and refining their ideas with prospective Red Ghds
When Sophie Lebrecht, a postdoctoral fellow from Carnegie Mellon, talked up her team's efforts to use MRI scans of a person's brain to predict his or her consumer preferences, Blank warned that the technology doesn't easily translate to the real world.
"We think the program's made an enormous impact," said Errol Arkilic, the NSF coordinator who oversees I Corps. He called Blank's writings on entrepreneurship "groundbreaking" and said the agency reached out to him last spring after new NSF Director Subra Suresh envisioned a mentorship program for selected grant recipients.
Nineteen of the 21 teams from last summer's inaugural I Corps class are already on the path toward commercializing their products, Blank said. They're developing, among other things, a robotic weedkiller for organic farms and better cooling technology for electronic devices.
customers before returning to campus for a sort of final exam.
Lipinski encouraged NSF chief Suresh to expand the program. And last week, he urged a House appropriations subcommittee to approve the $18.8 million the Obama administration is seeking for I Corps next year.
BRAINIACS AT WORK
Research teams deemed by the NSF to have the best potential to launch startups are being put through a modified version of Blank's Lean LaunchPad curriculum and given $50,000 apiece.
Aside from giving the budding entrepreneurs a sounding board, Blank and his team are able to share mistakes other startups have made and help I Corps members avoid similar errors. They freely open their Rolodexes of tech heavyweights. And they push the class to cold call as many prospective customers as possible, then report back each morning with revamped business plans. in engineering from Stanford and is mentoring an I Corps team that's designing software development tools, called the process "grueling" but said there's no better way to get new startups off the ground. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D Illinois, another Stanford engineering grad who sits on the House Science and Technology Committee. After reading about I Corps last year, he came to watch Blank in the classroom.
"Professors kind of sit in their offices and think about what would make an interesting research problem to solve," said Dean Chang, who runs the University of Maryland's efforts to commercialize on campus technology and is participating in the new I Corps class.
Stanford faculty, by contrast, have shown a relentless knack for turning ideas into companies. Chang says Silicon Valley's long track record gives the panel of mentors Blank has assembled "the clout to pull this off."
While some congressional Republicans worry that I Corps strays from the NSF's mission of funding basic research, Lipinski said boosting the country's economic competitiveness was one Beats Urbeats In-ear Headphones
As the hopefuls discussed business models and prospective customers, the panel doled out tough love.
Here are some of the National Science Foundation funded startups that are participating in the I Corps program at Stanford University. Arborlight (University of Michigan). Developing solid state LED light bulbs and tubes that burn brighter and cost less than standard LED bulbs. Barter (MIT). Runs an information sharing "knowledge market" to enhance worker productivity and student learning. Composite Nanocoatings (University of Virginia). Creating ultra lubricating coatings for medical devices. Soliculture (UC Santa Cruz). Developed technology to let Beats Yellow Headphones greenhouses generate electricity. Streamlined Embedded Technologies (University of Maryland). Making tools for software designers.
Chang and the others met in a Stanford conference hall, giving daily pitches on their technology in front of Blank and the other panelists.
National Science Foundation program at Stanford aims to tap into Silicon Valley know
But such hits are relatively rare, considering that the NSF pours billions into university research each year. Now the agency mindful that every dollar counts in these days of heated campaign rhetoric is teaming with Stanford University to see if Silicon Valley can boost that batting average.
Still, there was plenty of levity. After UC Santa Cruz researchers unveiled Soliculture, their startup that uses semitransparent dye to turn greenhouse windows into solar panels, venture capitalist John Feiber quipped, in a clear reference to pot growers: "There's a huge market in northern Marin County." Added Blank to more laughter: "And they pay Ghd Offers Uk
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