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National Science Foundation Selects von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center as Innovation Corps Site

Kai Wenk-Wolff, a technology and business advisor with the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center, talks to researchers about the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps program. Photo courtesy of the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center.

The University of California, San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering has been selected as an Innovation Corps site by the National Science Foundation, including $300,000 in funding over the next three years to support the efforts of budding young entrepreneurs. The program will be led by the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center at the Jacobs School of Engineering.

The NSF I-Corps program is designed to teach inventors how to evaluate the commercial opportunity of their research into commercially viable products and services. The von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center was one of three university programs in the country recently selected as an I-Corps site. The program recognizes the need to bridge the funding gap often referred to as the “valley of death” between basic research and commercialization, a challenge the von Liebig Center has been helping faculty and students tackle since its founding in 2001.

The award recognizes the commercialization infrastructure already built by the von Liebig Center and its established partnerships with industry, nonprofit organizations and entrepreneurial community. Rosibel Ochoa, executive director of the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center, said the NSF funding will enable the center to significantly increase opportunities for researchers to test the commercial potential of their idea even while they are in the early stages of the research process. The center plans to select 30 teams per year to receive mentoring support and up to $3,000 in funding for prototype studies and customer validation. The deadline for applications for the first cohort is Aug. 5.

Participants in the program are also eligible to apply for additional funding under the center’s technology acceleration programs and to be recommended to compete for an additional $50,000 NSF I-Corps team award.

“This award will be instrumental as a mechanism to encourage the participation of the UC San Diego research community in the innovation process, even at the ideation phase. Teams participating in the process will be able to evaluate the market potential of their ideas and determine if they have the passion and drive to pursue the launch of a new venture,” said Ochoa.

Since its inception, the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center has supported more than 37 companies that account for more than 200 jobs and more than $150 million in private capital. As a result of its leadership in the field of guiding university inventors through the commercialization process, the center recently signed an international agreement with Connect Bogota, a non-profit organization aiming at supporting innovation and entrepreneurship in Colombia.


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