UA, Tech Launch Arizona Designated NSF Innovation Corps Site

Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Clouds appearing over the Meinel Optical Sciences Building Photo credit: Jessie Marman/Tech Launch Arizona.

TUCSON, Ariz. – Tech Launch Arizona has been selected as an NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) site. This puts the UA among a prestigious group of institutions that includes Purdue University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie-Mellon University and others. 

The I-Corps designation will make a great contribution to the strategic growth and further diversification of the commercialization culture at UA. It is a direct result and reflection of the University’s focus on innovation via the Never Settle strategic and academic plan put forth by UA President Ann Weaver Hart, as well as the demonstrated effectiveness of Tech Launch Arizona, the office of the University that commercializes the inventions stemming from research. 

Through Never Settle, the UA is promoting its strengths in scientific research and innovation to address grand challenges, collaborating across disciplines to increase impact, and improving the University’s infrastructure to speed the entire research-to-application continuum.

Within that context, Tech Launch Arizona’s mission is to build an innovation and commercialization ecosystem around the synergies among the faculty and researchers of the University of Arizona, the resources of the UA’s tech parks, and the technology and business community to enhance the impact of UA research, intellectual property (IP) and technological innovation.

This grant will provide TLA with $100,000 each year for the next three years to distribute to selected I-Corps applicant teams. These funds will be split among 30 teams per year to help them move their innovative research toward commercialization. Each team grant of approximately $3,000 will last for one to three months.

The I-Corps prioritization of identifying intellectual property with the greatest potential for social and economic impact and then moving it towards commercialization is directly in line with Tech Launch Arizona’s mission.

According to David Allen, Ph.D., vice president of TLA, the new designation will complement what TLA already does in providing services to the UA community of inventors.

“Beyond helping UA researchers define, refine and protect UA inventions, we provide development funding and experienced mentors to help UA researchers position their technology for adoption by entirely new companies or existing innovation companies,” he says. “Being an I-Corps site won’t really change how we do things; more than anything, it will simply allow us to enhance what we already do and give us more access to resources to support to our inventor community.” 

I-Corps is an NSF initiative designed to prepare scientists and engineers to expand their focus beyond the laboratory and increase the impact of basic research. I-Corps has three distinct elements:

  • I-Corps Sites: academic institutions that serve as catalysts for engaging teams in commercialization and local innovation.
  • I-Corps Nodes: hubs where the NSF has placed infrastructure and resources for engaging and educating academic scientists and engineers in innovation.
  • I-Corps Teams: each composed of a principal investigator, an entrepreneurial lead, and a mentor.

I-Corps funds will be designated for such teams working on UA-connected technologies, including:

  • Inventions arising out of the work of UA-employed researchers and faculty
  • Technologies being developed by companies connected to the UA through the Arizona Center for Innovation (AzCI), the UA incubator at the UA Tech Park
  • Student-developed technology innovations that demonstrate the potential for commercial and social impact

One key benefit to I-Corps teams will be engagement in the I-Corps curriculum. Via the I-Corps nodes, teams will have access to a customized curriculum, which provides entrepreneurial education and coaching for I-Corps teams to maximize their opportunities for success.

Generally, technologies selected for I-Corps will either fit seamlessly into the existing TLA processes and other entrepreneurial support organizations and initiatives at the UA, such as the Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Clinic at the James E. Rogers College of Law, the Eller College of Management, the McGuire Center for EntrepreneurshipInnovateUA and AzCI.                            

According to Allen, “This opportunity lands in our sweet spot and we are very excited to be adding I-Corps to TLA’s suite of offerings for UA and local technology innovators.”

More information about the I-Corps program is available at

For information about the I-Corps program at Tech Launch Arizona and the UA, visit

- written by Paul Tumarkin
Paul Tumarkin