The University of California, Berkeley, UC San Francisco and Stanford University are collaborating on an educational program aimed at commercializing university research and fostering innovation locally and nationally, thanks to a three-year, $3.75 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The “I-Corps Node: NSF Bay Area Regional I-Node Program” is one of three new Innovation Corps (or I-Corps) Nodes that the NSF is establishing across the United States, the NSF announced this week.
The goal of I-Corps is to increase the impact of NSF-funded research by setting up innovation ecosystems within universities that will train the next generation of entrepreneurs, encourage partnerships between academia and industry, and commercialize science and technology. The resources of the program are available to NSF principal investigators and their graduate students, as well as local and national startups.
The San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley Node is coordinated by UC Berkeley in collaboration with UCSF and Stanford University. The node is headed by Richard Lyons, dean of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Blank, entrepreneurship lecturer at Berkeley and Stanford. André Marquis, executive director of the Haas School’s Lester Center for Entrepreneurship, serves the role of Node manager.
“Our three universities are the source of so many ground-breaking discoveries that can be put into service of society and this grant will allow us to develop next-generation processes to tap them and bring them to market,” says Berkeley-Haas Dean Rich Lyons. “Getting better at this means more jobs, more economic value and better lives.”
Lyons and Blank are joined by co-investigators Erik Lium, PhD, assistant vice chancellor of Innovation, Technology & Alliances at UCSF, and Riitta Katila, associate professor of Management Science & Engineering at Stanford University.
All of NSF’s I-Corps nodes will teach the Lean Launchpad framework, a training program developed by Blank that focuses entrepreneurs on developing business models, rather than business plans, and on iterating their models quickly and frequently based on customer feedback. The framework grew out of an earlier customer development course Blank taught at Berkeley-Haas after observing that few business plans ever survived first contact with customers. Blank teaches the Lean Launchpad framework in the Berkeley MBA Program and at Stanford’s School of Engineering. At UCSF, where Blank also will begin teaching this fall, this will be the first time the framework will be used in a bioscience setting.
Erik Lium, PhD
“UCSF was the birthplace of biotechnology, launching some of the lead companies in the field, such as Genentech. As such, this program fits perfectly with our efforts to translate research into new bioscience companies,” says Lium, whose office also oversees the Entrepreneurship Center at UCSF. “Our goal is to expand the Lean Launchpad curriculum to address the life sciences, creating a model that biomedical entrepreneurs can use worldwide to build successful companies.”
“Stanford is delighted to join with these two universities and the NSF in fostering entrepreneurship and driving the growth of a national innovation ecosystem,” says Stanford Engineering Dean Jim Plummer. “We welcome the opportunity to leverage our history of successful technology transfer to benefit our nation’s economy and improve the lives of our citizens.”
The Bay Area partner institutions will also build novel pedagogical tools to provide much of their training programs online and track the progress of their startups, which will help to advance best practices for teaching and fostering entrepreneurship in the future. The online trainings will be made available publicly.
“This is one of three new I-Corps nodes that will significantly expand our reach in bringing innovation education to faculty and students,” said NSF Program Director Don Millard. “This node builds on early work with Berkeley in developing the I-Corps effort. In the collaboration with UCSF and Stanford, we see it helping bring I-Corps training to a new level. The addition of the San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley node will help advance the I-Corps program’s National Innovation Network.”
“The Nodes are the foundation of a national innovation ecosystem and focus on the front-lines of local and regional commercialization efforts. We are looking to them to provide long-term, critical education infrastructure and feedback to the programs that support the commercialization of our nation’s basic research portfolio,” says Errol Arkilic, NSF I-Corps program director.
“The NSF has built an incredibly smart program to bring together the best of science and technology invention with all the advances we have made in teaching entrepreneurship over the past decade,” says node manager André Marquis. “Given our unique location within the national network for entrepreneurship, we have a great deal to bring to the I-Corps network.”
The UCSF Office of Innovation, Technology and Alliances coordinates the University's efforts in forging collaborations that translate cutting-edge science on campus into therapies and products that directly benefit patients worldwide. The office oversees intellectual property, technology transfer, and innovative alliances with commercial, non-profit, and government organizations.
About the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps Program
The primary goal of NSF I-Corps is to foster entrepreneurship that will lead to the commercialization of technology that has been supported previously by NSF-funded research. I-Corps Nodes are designed to support regional needs for innovation education, infrastructure and research. The Nodes will work cooperatively to build, utilize and sustain a national innovation ecosystem that further enhances the development of technologies, products and processes that benefit society. Visit the NSF website.