NDSU receives $14 million grant for Great Plains Innovation Hub – KVLY

FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) – North Dakota State University has been awarded a $14 million grant over five years from the National Science Foundation to establish a multi-institutional Great Plains Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Hub to provide immersive, entrepreneurial training. The goal is to move ideas of scientists and engineers to commercialization.
“This support from the National Science Foundation shows how the ingenuity of our faculty and students at NDSU will develop the inventors and entrepreneurs of tomorrow,” said NDSU President David Cook.
Michael Kessler, dean of engineering at NDSU and principal investigator for the program, shared the Hub’s vision of connecting the pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit of the Great Plains with the national deep tech ecosystem. “This region has lagged behind other places in the country in transforming intellectual property into new ventures, so this is an excellent opportunity to expand the geography of innovation. We are excited to lead the partnership with the other top research universities in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming.”
The Hubs consist of universities, researchers, established entrepreneurs, local and regional entrepreneurial communities, and federal agencies. The new Great Plains Hub is part of a group of five additional Hubs announced by the NSF on Sept. 8, 2022.
David Grewell, NDSU professor and chair of industrial and manufacturing engineering and director of the Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites (CB2) will serve as the director of the Great Plains I-Corps Hub, oversee the Hub activities, and coordinate efforts of all partner institutions.
“As a regional Hub, it’s critical that multiple institutions are successfully integrated to ensure coverage across the entire region and to represent the specific needs of their respective areas. NDSU’s experience at leading the CB2 center provides a unique perspective on how to successfully bring together the multiple institutions in the Hub,” he said.
Colleen Fitzgerald, vice president of research for NDSU believes the success of the Great Plains Region Hub will drive future growth. “Through the leadership of Dean Kessler and Dr. Grewell, the Hub will inject new vibrancy into our ecosystem and lead to new startups, new jobs, and more for North Dakota and the Great Plains,” she said.
I-Corps hubs provide training to research teams to help them bring their ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace. Over the course of eight weeks, the teams receive entrepreneurial education, mentoring, and funding to accelerate their fundamental research into emerging products and services that can attract subsequent third-party funding.
NDSU researchers Chad Ulven and Jessica Vold reflected on their previous experience of being members of I-Corps teams.
“The experience I gained was career changing,” said Ulven, NDSU professor and interim chair of mechanical engineering. “After going through the I-Corp program, I started looking at research opportunities much differently. I began envisioning the value proposition and broader use case of anything I could potentially develop before even getting started.”
Vold, NDSU assistant professor of engineering entrepreneurship and innovation, said, “The I-Corps methodologies really show academics like myself how to truly listen to stakeholders and build empathy for their daily activities so we can tailor our innovations to make the biggest impact we can on society.”
Onnolee Nordstrom, NDSU associate professor of management and marketing and Ozbun Chair of Entrepreneurship, currently teaches and manages entrepreneurship programs at NDSU. She said that the Hub will bring many opportunities. “Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of a thriving economy, and innovation is the key to staying ahead in a globally competitive world. By educating local students, researchers, and faculty about early-stage opportunity identification and connecting them with the resources needed to consider translation, the I-Corps Hub will create possibility, energy, and a larger pool of innovators capable of developing and pursuing new ideas.
In addition to Nordstrom, Ahmad Al Asady, assistant professor of management; Dan Hsu, associate professor of management; and Josh Marineau, associate professor of management and marketing, will be on the Hub’s research team.
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