Entrepreneurs complete Summer 2020 I-Corps program


Imagine how easier holiday shopping might be with a gift selection app that helps someone choose a gift based on the recipient’s interests and personality. Consider the environmental benefits of using a bacteria-based black dye for garments that is an eco-friendly alternative to toxic synthetic black dye. And what if zinc-based batteries, which are difficult to recharge, could be easily get their power back with the drop of a novel additive chemical? 

Those were among 11 projects presented Friday during a virtual presentation by the University of Akron Research Foundation’s (UARF) Summer 2020 I-Corps team members. The I-Corps program, launched by the National Science Foundation (NSF), helps entrepreneurs clarify who their customers are and what problems the new product or service can solve for those customers.


Cohorts, which gather every academic semester and in the summer, typically include students and faculty members from area universities and entrepreneurs from cities across the Northeast Ohio region.

Six teams in the Summer 2020 cohort included faculty and/or students from UA:

  • Fracture Healing Device – A device consisting of a biodegradable bioglass-loaded collagen sheet/sponge to speed up the bone healing process of bone fractures.
  • EcoFlys – A sustainable replacement for Fishmeal in the agriculture industry that uses Black Solider Fly larvae as a replacement protein.
  • S4 Mobile Laboratories – A device that uses shallow subsurface soil spectroscopy technology to help pinpoint the source of the nutrient runoff, resulting in cleaner water in downstream waterbodies.
  • Ultrathin Coating Filters – An invention that provides a method to significantly improve the protection efficiency of surgical/cloth masks against nanoparticles by an ultrathin coating composed of graphene and polydopamine to further prevent or slow down the spread of airborne diseases.
  • Smart Tire Power – Technology that will provide stable power for next-generation intelligent tire sensors that can operate without batteries, which will lead to cost reduction, easy maintenance, increased functionality and be environment friendly.
  • Flexible Transducers – A low-cost, flexible, temperature-stable, piezoelectric transducer that could provide value to the tire industry for energy harvesting and sensing applications.

The Summer 2020 cohort included 47 team members who completed 248 customer interviews for their products and services.

Following completion of the I-Corps program, members of UARF will continue to check in with the teams. Each team is given three unique milestones based on their final presentations and progress in product/service development. Team members are encouraged to participate in relevant follow-on programs, such as the more intense statewide I-Corps@Ohio program and the Software Accelerator at the Bounce Innovation Hub in Akron.

This is the seventh year UARF has run Northeast Ohio’s I-Corps Site. In that time, the program has helped 274 teams and 903 participants advance through the first steps of customer discovery.

Media contact: Alex Knisely, 330-972-6477 or aknisely@uakron.edu.