NSF Awards Georgia Tech $500K Grant to Further Institute’s Commercialization Efforts

Staff Report From Metro Atlanta CEO

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

The National Science Foundation has named the Georgia Institute of Technology an Innovation 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."