HOUGHTON — In an effort to help researchers fast-track their technologies to the marketplace, Michigan is launching a new entrepreneurial training program called Michigan I-Corps. Applications for the program, administered by the University of Michigan, opened last week.
Michigan I-Corps is modeled after the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps (Innovation Corps) program.
Two teams from Michigan Technological University have participated in the national I-Corps. Earlier this month a team led by Ezra Bar Ziv, a professor of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics, was selected as the top team among the 24 participating teams from universities throughout the nation. The first NSF I-Corps team from Michigan Tech was led by Physics Professor Yoke Khin Yap.
The national I-Corps program is open only to researchers with NSF funding. Michigan I-Corps does not require previous NSF support for eligibility; it is open to any Michigan-based technology developer, regardless of academic affiliation or funding source.
John Diebel, assistant director of technology commercialization at Michigan Tech, has worked with the national I-corps program twice as an industry mentor. He calls I-Corps training “transformative,” not just for the participating teams, but for the entire field of technology transfer.
In I-Corps, teams of three learn to identify and contact potential customers for their technology, to determine whether the technology solves a real problem or meets a specific need.
“They find out who has the need and the money to actually buy the product,” Diebel explained. “Typically, they find a good market for their technology, but inevitably, it is not one they expected. Until they’ve been through the intensive customer discovery process, our faculty cannot imagine how much more there is to be learned about transforming their technology into a business.”
The first Michigan I-Corps teams chosen and will be invited to three days of training in Ann Arbor in May. They will return to Ann Arbor in June for a two-day storytelling workshop and demo day.
Future sessions will be in different locations around the state, to make the program accessible to as many Michigan researchers, inventors and technologists as possible. Organizers of Michigan I-Corps hope to train approximately 100 teams a year.
In addition to I-Corps’ customer discovery and business model canvas curriculum, the Michigan teams will learn business and intellectual property basics. They will receive training in entrepreneurial ownership and operations.
Online applications can be found at http://cfe.umich.edu/innovation-corps.