Knoxville News Sentinel article

Got a high-tech idea, but not sure it’s market-ready?

Innovators from the Knoxville area can put their brainstorms to the test this fall during a two-week program at the University of Tennessee. Applications are open now until Sept. 29 for the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps Fall Regional. This is the first time the event, to be held Oct. 3 to 19, has been at UT, according to Maha Krishnamurthy from the UT Research Foundation.

“You don’t have to be from the university, but it has to be tech-based, so it makes sense to be partnering with the university,” she said. Teams from other colleges in the same I-Corps region, such as from the University of Alabama or Georgia Tech, could also enter.

“But we encourage and want more participation from here,” Krishnamurthy said.

She and UT I-Corps South Program Coordinator Shawn Carson went to a related program at Georgia Tech in May, and are now designated instructors for this event and future I-Corps seminars, Krishnamurthy said.

“This program is a great introduction for teams to the national NSF I-Corps program and the resources that are available at UT to support the commercialization process,” Carson said in a news release.

Ten to 12 teams are expected, with two to four members each, she said. Participants will be assigned mentors (if they don’t already have one), and will be expected to contact about 20 companies in two weeks to see if their business ideas really fill a need.

Successful participants in this event can apply to a larger, 6-week nationwide program. Winners of that competition can get $50,000 from the National Science Foundation, Krishnamurthy said.

Participants will get a one-day introduction from Georgia Tech instructors, then will spend a couple weeks making calls and checking in with mentors, she said.

“The curriculum will cover the customer discovery process, developing a value proposition, and creating a business plan,” the news release said.

The I-Corps program’s south node includes the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa and University of Alabama at Birmingham – and now UT as well. The fall regional event is an informal kickoff for UT’s participation in the south node, according to the news release.

The UT I-Corps South is co-sponsored by UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. To apply, go to icorpssouth.com/registration. For more information contact Carson at scarson2@utk.edu or 865-974-0520.