Blog Written by Justin Streuli, MBA
Ideas come from everywhere: solving a nagging problem at work, getting inspiration in a dream, having that “aha” moment when out for a walk. Everyone has an app or invention idea. At this very moment, you can probably think of a million-dollar idea you would love to see come to fruition. But what next? It’s not so much the idea that’s important, it’s what you DO with it. Fortunately, the School of Education’s Impact Through Innovation (ITI) Kickbox program and UNCG’s I-Corps programs provide support in moving your innovative ideas beyond the realm of possibility; they can help make your innovative ideas actionable and actual!
ITI Kickbox gives you a framework – a path with clear steps to see if an idea has potential. Kickbox packages a proven innovation process into a self-contained toolkit. From Inception and Ideate to Improve, Investigate and Create, it’s a perfect first step sequence to work through the positives and negatives of an idea.
Now, let’s say you’ve worked through the 5-step Kickbox process and really think you have something. Where do you go from there? Students, faculty, staff and alumni at UNCG are lucky, because we have an internationally recognized program to support those next steps – the Greensboro NSF I-Corps Program.
In 2017, UNCG + NCAT were awarded a 5-year, $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to support up to 30 teams per year through the Greensboro NSF I-Corps program. I-Corps is a federally funded program designed to prepare innovators, scientists, engineers and researchers to extend their novel ideas beyond university laboratories and classrooms, to nurture our innovation ecosystem both locally and nationally.
I-Corps is based on the Lean Launchpad (LLP) Methodology, which is basically the scientific method for identifying a business opportunity for a product, service or innovation. LLP enables the systematic identification of knowledge gaps to understand the most appropriate path forward for an innovative concept. It involves interviewing a variety of stakeholders to validate and invalidate assumptions and arrive at a market-vetted solution that fits with what customers are looking for.
The Greensboro NSF I-Corps program connects and educates academic researchers and innovative students with the technological, entrepreneurial, and business communities through several different programs:
- The “I-Corps Short-Course Cohorts” program is a 5 session, team-based model in which participating teams complete 30+ interviews to learn the ideal product-market fit for their business idea or innovation. Teams ideally consist of a Student Entrepreneur Lead, Faculty Lead/Advisor, and Industry Mentor. These teams receive mini-grants around $2,500 and many other benefits to fund their customer discovery efforts, prototyping and other team expenses.
- New for 2018, the “I-Corps Grad Student Trade Show Travel Fund” program supports graduate students wanting to learn more about their research interest, market gaps and innovation opportunities by attending an industry trade show. Students receive expert training on business models and effective interviews, and up to $2,000 to cover travel, accommodations, food and entry to a trade show.
- New for 2019, the “I-Corps Classroom” program, in partnership with ENT/HHS 250: Purpose-Driven Entrepreneurship, supports innovative undergraduate students with STEM-related business ideas. Borrowing from the Cohort program, students will receive mini-grant funding to determine the ideal product-market fit for their business idea or innovation while also receiving class credit.
I-Corps has already had a dramatic impact on teams that have participated. As of December 2018, the Greensboro I-Corps program has generated over $380,000 in additional, later-stage funding for participating teams.
For innovators in the UNCG School of Education and beyond, the ITI Kickbox program and the Greensboro NSF I-Corps program are two of the best steps you can take to turn your innovative idea into an impactful solution. All right UNCG, let’s keep on dancing!