University of Akron Research Foundation continues helping entrepreneurs despite pandemic


The impacts of the novel coronavirus, such as social distancing and Ohio’s stay-at-home order, are causing many people to reconstruct their daily routines and adapt to new work environments. Even as COVID-19 continues to take its toll on Ohioans and has brought some services to a screeching halt, the pandemic hasn’t stopped innovation.

The University of Akron Research Foundation (UARF) is continuing to advance novice entrepreneurs through the first steps of customer discovery in the I-Corps program. This time it’s being taught all online for the first time in the seven years that UARF has run Northeast Ohio’s I-Corps Site.

The I-Corps program helps entrepreneurs clarify who their customers are and what problems the new product or service can solve for those customers. More than 200 teams of very early stage entrepreneurs with an original product or service have gone through UARF’s I-Corps program.

“The process of moving online has come with some challenges, but many rewards,” said UARF Project Manager Elyse Ball. “In particular, we’re happy with how well we’ve been able to connect interpersonally with the I-Corps teams through video chats and online messaging. We’re also thrilled with how well the teams have adapted to this environment and have continued to complete customer interviews while observing social distancing. Everyone involved has really embraced our ‘new normal’ and made the best of it.”

There are 19 teams in this semester’s I-Corps cohort, which includes student teams from The University of Akron and Case Western Reserve University, and entrepreneurs from cities across the Northeast Ohio region. Current teams include:

  • Ta­pme — A smartphone feature that eliminates the need for using public touchscreens for daily uses. Users can engage with devices, such as interactive restaurant menus and games, by tapping their smartphones on the devices and interacting with them via their smartphones.
  • Self-restocking grocery device — This product is a self-restocking device for grocery stores through automated intelligence. It will allow retailers to reduce labor costs by more than 60% in one department and save tremendous amounts of time restocking shelves throughout a store.
  • RoadPrintz — A truck-mounted mobile robotic pavement marking system for transverse markings such as turn arrows and bike symbols. This product will improve worker safety and efficiency when putting vital traffic markings on roadways.
  • Shear Force Foot Maps — Shear forces are believed to be the primary cause of diabetic foot ulcers. To combat these, this product prevents diabetic foot ulcers by using medical insoles designed with novel foot pressure maps that, for the first time, differentiate normal and shear forces using proprietary University of Akron sensor technology.

Teams will participate in a virtual graduation day on Friday, April 17, from noon to 2 p.m. Participants will give a presentation on what knowledge they acquired from the program. Members of the public can attend this event by registering online at I-Corps Startup Finale Pitches.

Media contact: Alex Knisely, 330-972-6477 or