Intensive three-week customer discovery program enters its third year at UT.

Applications are open through September 29 for the National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) fall 2019 regional workshop series. The three-week customer-discovery program will be held October 3, 10 and 17 at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Teams of two to four people can apply for the opportunity to participate in the fall regional workshop series. Potential applicants must be located in the southeastern United States and have an interest in commercializing research. University-based teams are preferred, though not required.

The program is part of UT’s participation in the I-Corps South Node, one of eight regional networks developed to support innovation education, infrastructure and research. The workshops are designed by I-Corps South to help individuals interested in commercializing technology-based ideas to build a business model that addresses customers’ needs. Program instructors include Shawn Carson, UT I-Corps program coordinator and entrepreneurship faculty in the Haslam College of Business, and Maha Krishnamurthy, vice president of the UT Research Foundation (UTRF).

“I-Corps is a great introduction for teams to the National NSF I-Corps program and the resources that are available at UT to support them through the commercialization process,” Carson said.

The fall regional series kicks off on October 3 at the Joint Institute for Advance Materials (JIAM) located at the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm. The curriculum will cover the customer discovery process, developing a value proposition and creating a business thesis. A workshop on business modeling constructed from the information gleaned from customer interviews follows on October 10. During the three-week period, teams will conduct a series of interviews with prospective customers to identify their needs and meet with mentors from the instructional team during virtual office hours. The program wraps up on October 17 when participants reconvene to share what they have learned.

“I-Corps can open many doors and get participants started down the right path to opening a business or commercializing a technology,” Krishnamurthy said. “We encourage students, faculty and entrepreneurs to learn more about I-Corps and see how its programming can help them translate their research into a commercial product that can have a real impact on society.”

The NSF I-Corps program was established in 2011 to help scientists and engineers think beyond the laboratory and identify opportunities for translating research into commercial products that can benefit society. Hundreds of teams from across the country have participated in the national program, spending six to seven weeks interviewing customers and businesses to answer the question: what do our customers need and does it align with our research? Teams that successfully complete the program are awarded $50,000.

UT is a partner in I-Corps South, whose members include the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

UT I-Corps South is a program of the Department of Management in UT’s Haslam College of Business and is co-sponsored by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation (ACEI) in Haslam and UTRF.

Shawn Carson, UT I-Corps program coordinator, Haslam College of Business,


About ACEI

ACEI is a university-based resource for entrepreneurship across the region and the state of Tennessee. Its mission is to foster an entrepreneurial culture at UT and across the state by developing student skills, providing experiential learning opportunities, conducting meaningful entrepreneurial research and connecting students with mentors and resources that enable them to successfully start and grow new businesses.

About UTRF

UTRF is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that promotes the commercialization of UT intellectual property, encourages an entrepreneurial culture, contributes to state and regional economic development and promotes research and education to benefit the people of Tennessee and beyond. UTRF provides assistance and resources to the research activities of faculty, staff and students of UT and works to help move ideas to the marketplace.

About the Department of Management, Haslam College of Business

The Department of Management is dedicated to providing high-quality education in the management discipline through a creative balance of academic, professional and extracurricular programs. Through mutually beneficial partnerships with alumni, industry and local, state and federal governments, the department also provides public service assistance and collaborative research and scholarship, which contribute to the nation’s knowledge base in the management discipline.

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