National Science Foundation grant will fund MSU I-Corps Site

Mississippi State University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach will serve as an NSF I-Corps Site, helping the university expand the economic impact of its research. (Photo by Megan Bean)

Contact: James Carskadon

STARKVILLE, Miss.—The number of startup businesses formed around technology developed within Mississippi State University is set to increase thanks to a $495,300 National Science Foundation Grant.

The grant from the NSF will launch a new I-Corps Site at MSU, helping the university broaden the economic reach of its research and innovation. The College of Business’ Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach, also called the “CEO,” will lead the I-Corps site, providing infrastructure, advice, resources, networking opportunities, training and modest funding to enable groups to transition their work into the marketplace or into becoming I-Corps Team applications.

“We are very excited that we have been selected as an NSF I-Corps site,” College of Business Dean Sharon Oswald said. “The I-Corps site helps us elevate MSU faculty entrepreneurship to the next level and raise the stakes for building businesses that help solve the world’s biggest problems.”

The I-Corps Site will strengthen innovation locally and regionally by combining CEO’s well-established entrepreneurship program and its strong external relationships and providing a targeted training program. The center will form 30 teams annually comprised of MSU faculty, students and outside mentors. It also will work with the university’s Office of Technology Management to identify strong potential new technologies.

“This is great news for Mississippi State, and I’m very pleased that the National Science Foundation recognizes the university’s commitment to our ever-growing entrepreneurial culture,” said MSU Vice President for Research and Economic Development David Shaw.

MSU is the only institution of higher learning in the state to achieve Innovation and Economic Prosperity University status from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. The designation — attained after a rigorous review process — recognizes Mississippi State for working to advance engagement and economic well-being in the state, region and nation, Shaw said.

Oswald and CEO Director Eric Hill will serve as co-principal investigators on the NSF grant. As an I-Corps Site, MSU will deliver a condensed version of the NSF national I-Corps program to participating teams. Those teams will be provided with micro grants to define value propositions, identify and validate customer segments and draft their business models. Hill said that MSU’s existing infrastructure can provide the necessary resources, training and networking opportunities for the I-Corps Site.

“MSU is the state leader in research, and many innovative things are being developed in the lab, but it’s really a monumental task to get them out of the lab and into the marketplace,” Hill said. “This program will give them a pathway to get it out into the marketplace and, in the best case, produce a company that can employ a lot of people in high-tech jobs.”

Hill added that I-Corps teams can come from anywhere in the state of Mississippi, including other state universities. Complete information on the I-Corps program can be found at http://ecenter.msstate.edu/launch/icorps.

For more on the Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach, visit www.ecenter.msstate.edu.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.