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National Science Foundation award will spark innovation and entrepreneurship

UA has been named a National Science Foundation I-Corps site -- one of only three universities in the nation -- to develop commercial products from federally funded research. This recognition of our start-up support system means UA will receive a $300,000 award to train teams of students, faculty and community businesses to inspire effective innovation and entrepreneurship. See the press release.

How the NSF award will accelerate innovation

University of Akron Research FoundationBuilding on the strength of the UA Research Foundation (UARF) and its Office of Technology Transfer, UA is creating a proof-of-concept center, called the Innovation Practice Center.

The Innovation Practice Center will accelerate the pace of commercialization of UA technologies in the community.

Researcher at AkronThe Center will support teams of three:

  • an Academic Lead (often a faculty inventor),
  • an Entrepreneurial Lead (often a graduate student associated with the invention), and
  • a Mentor (someone from UARF or the community with expertise in the technology)

Together, they will apply for proof-of-concept grants (about $10,000 to $25,000) to early-stage technologies for research, testing and prototyping of high impact technologies from UA.

The NSF funding will be used fill the pipeline into the Innovation Practice Center. Teams will be able to apply for small grant (up to $3,000) to obtain training, purchase materials for prototypes or travel to consult with experts.

Project partners and collaborators

The journey to commercialized success

One of the projects currently under way in the lab of Dr. Ajay Mahajan, associate dean for research in the College of Engineering and professor of mechanical engineering, is an example of the type of research that can be nurtured and commercialized through the NSF I-Corps Sites Program.

Esra Cipa, left, and Zahra Najafi, both graduate students in biomedical engineering, demonstrate their hydroponics research in the lab of Mahajan. Cipa is a member of the LaunchTown Entrepreneurship Award-winning team “Telkesis,” a developer of the next generation of spinal implants, which was awarded $10,000 as “best idea” in the 2012 LaunchTown Entrepreneurship Awards. Telkesis is the type of student-inspired startup business being nurtured by the NSF I-Corps Sites Program.

Development in progress

Two UA teams are already in the Innovation Practice Center pipeline — having completed an intensive, six-week business development course through the NSF I-Corps Teams program. Each UA team has formed a company and received further funding: Akron Ascent Innovations is a producer of dry, reusable adhesives, and ThermElectricity is a developer of a thermal energy harvesting device that captures energy from virtually any heat source.