Penn Center for Innovation Awarded NSF Grant to Foster Entrepreneurship

The Penn Center for Innovation, the University of Pennsylvania’s commercialization organization, announced today that it has been awarded a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation to establish an I-Corps Site to support translation of research areas into the marketplace by providing educational programming, financial support and strategic guidance. 

The NSF Innovation Corps, or I-Corps, is the agency’s main vehicle to foster translation of research to the marketplace using techniques developed to validate each commercial opportunity in a recognized, effective way: customer and business model development. The primary goal of the NSF I-Corps Sites program is to catalyze the engagement of multiple, local teams in technology transition and strengthen local innovation.

The Penn I-Corps Site is a business accelerator program, which will further develop Penn’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Throughout the summer of 2015, 30 faculty-student interdisciplinary teams will create commercialization plans to bring early stage technology from the lab to the market. Teams will consist of an entrepreneurial lead, who could be a student; an industry mentor; and an academic lead, typically a faculty member. The goal is to help the teams launch new ventures by the end of 2015.

John Swartley, PCI executive director and associate vice provost for research at Penn, said, “I am thrilled that PCI will be able to expand its impact on the entrepreneurial environment at Penn and in Philadelphia through this new program. We are looking forward to encouraging and further supporting a new wave of faculty and students passionate about pursuing commercialization opportunities in partnership with Penn.”

PCI is partnering with organizations both within Penn and externally to support the effort, including the the Mack Institute at Penn’s Wharton School, the Center for Healthcare Innovation at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia.

“We’re excited to partner in this initiative as part of our mission to advance thought leadership on innovation management and its application,” said Saikat Chaudhuri, Executive Director of the Mack Institute. “Through facilitated collaboration between students, faculty researchers and industry leaders, students can play a key role in driving the commercialization of Penn research.”

Upon completing the accelerator, teams will have tested and developed their business models and will be well positioned to apply for further funding from NSF.

“Congratulations to the Penn Center for Innovation on this grant which will complement and extend our efforts to foster innovation and entrepreneurship through Philadelphia,” said Alan Greenberger, deputy mayor for economic development. “We look forward to partnering and supporting this effort to ensure that even more entrepreneurs and companies emerge from Penn’s campus and remain to grow the ecosystem here in Philadelphia.”

All Penn faculty and students, as well as teams emerging from Penn classes and competitions, are encouraged to participate. PCI will sponsor networking events to help form teams, the first of which will take place on Feb. 24 at 4:30 p.m. at World Cafe Live. Additional information is available at

Acceptance to the accelerator will be reviewed by a committee of investors, proven entrepreneurs, and industry experts. The program will launch in May with a kickoff event with invitees from the entrepreneurial community in the greater Philadelphia region.

“We are looking forward to this additional step in our growing relationship with PCI and Penn,” said RoseAnn Rosenthal, president and CEO of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania. “We’re excited to work together to build a network of mentors and advisors to help the teams gain real-world experience in bringing technology from the lab to the market and to build a pipeline of investable enterprises that can create economic value in our region.”

Accepted teams will attend a multi-session customer discovery workshop comprising lectures and hands-on activities. Teams will receive as much as $2,500 in NSF funding, which can be used for prototyping materials, travel to visit potential customers and end users and other justifiable resources. PCI Ventures will assist teams by providing access to its company creation services and facilitating connections with its extensive entrepreneurial network.

The grant abstract is here.

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