Lobo Rainforest I-Corps

Program Overview

The University of New Mexico has been selected as a National Science foundation (NSF) I-Corps Site. The I-Corps Site’s purpose is to foster innovation among faculty and students, promote regional coordination and linkages in the innovation ecosystem, as well as develop a National Innovation Network. The $443,361 NSF I-Corps funding will enable UNM to reach even more potential inventors and innovators. Request for proposals will be issued twice each year for selection of 10 teams from each cohort for a total of 20 team proposals in the first year. The number of teams chosen will increase incrementally each year over the five-year program period. A committee of UNM, STC, and business community members will evaluate the proposals for the winning applications.

The new program will offer seed funding to each selected team to be used as early development seed money to turn their entrepreneurial ideas into potentially viable companies.

The NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) is the agency’s signature effort to assist teams of university scientists and post-doctoral or graduate students to go outside of their laboratories and into the marketplace where they can learn first-hand about entrepreneurship while they explore and validate the commercial landscape surrounding their innovation. The primary goal of NSF I-Corps is to provide University scientists and researchers the program, process, and resources to investigate and validate the commercialization of their science.

The UNM I-Corps program is administered by the university’s Innovation Academy, UNM’s innovative program for entrepreneurial students and STC.UNM (STC), UNM’s technology transfer and economic development arm.

The Innovation Academy and STC.UNM will be an integral part of both the identification of potential team members and the follow-up mentoring and coaching activities. By utilizing a group of experienced advisors to mentor and coach the selected teams, the NSF is counting on cultivating more qualified applicants for larger funding awards, such as the $50,000 offered by the NSF. A specific goal of UNM's I-Corps program is to increase the numbers of women and underrepresented minorities involved in starting companies.

Teams will consist of an academic lead (typically a university faculty or staff member), an entrepreneurial lead (possibly a graduate student), and an external industry mentor.  Each selected team will participate in a workshop utilizing the Kauffman Founders School and Lean LaunchPad (LLP) curriculum and methodology. Selected teams will leave the workshop possessing a solid understanding of what is necessary to achieve an economic impact with a particular innovation.