Rensselaer Offers Scientists and Engineers a New Pathway to Entrepreneurship

I-Corps program trains students to bring their ideas to market

September 29, 2022


Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is joining the National Science Foundation New York I-Corps Hub as a new partner institution. The designation comes with a nearly $700,000 award over five years to help faculty and students commercialize their deep tech STEM-based ideas. Rensselaer’s participation in the program is facilitated by the Lally School of Management’s Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship.

“I-Corps is a foundational program helping translate research to applications that ultimately benefit society,” said Jason Kuruzovich, academic director of the Severino Center and associate professor at Rensselaer. “This program is one of the ways the Severino Center helps researchers to change the world!”

Rensselaer will offer four I-Corps cohorts of six to 10 teams each this academic year. Teams will receive $1,000 seed funding to explore the commercial potential of a research project with expert guidance along the way. Projects may include medical devices, new materials, software, hardware, physical products, and more. Students will learn to ground their research in real-world problems, lay the groundwork for future startups, and make potentially career-launching contacts. They will be taught the lean startup methodology and the value of customer discovery. After completing the program, participants may be eligible to apply for the second-stage I-Corps program that includes a $50,000 grant, along with many other funding opportunities.

“The I-Corps program bridges the gap between the lab and the real world for science and engineering students and faculty,” said Kelly Reardon-Sleicher, associate program director of the Severino Center. “It provides critical professional training to help innovative ideas become reality.”

Since Rensselaer began participating in I-Corps in 2016, 98 teams have completed the program, including 60 from Rensselaer. I-Corps has drawn accolades from students and faculty.

“A Ph.D. student passed her Candidacy Exam with big accolades by committee members entirely because she fully understood the context and applications of her research thanks to the I-Corps program!” said Shayla Sawyer, Rensselaer professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering.

Reporting I-Corps teams from Rensselaer have raised nearly $6 million in funding, including four Small Business Innovation Research grants, since their I-Corps experience. Some participants have earned revenue from retail sales. One team is currently in patient trials with their product. Another student reported that I-Corps was the most valuable experience of his master’s program.

“Rensselaer offers unparalleled entrepreneurial training to science and engineering students, and the I-Corps program is one facet of that,” said Chanaka Edirisinghe, acting dean of the Lally School of Management and Jackson Tai ’72 Chaired Professor in Quantitative Finance. “Scientific, technical, and business expertise is a winning and world-changing combination.”

Written By Katie Malatino
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