UNC Charlotte Selected as an NSF Innovation Corps Site

May 28, 2015

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – May 21, 2015 – The UNC Charlotte proposal for a Ventureprise Charlotte Launch program was selected as an NSF I-Corps Site in a nationally competitive solicitation by the National Science Foundation. The selection also designates UNC Charlotte as one of 36 universities that are part of the NSF National Innovation Network.

“The NSF selection of UNC Charlotte as an I-Corps Site validates our long-standing investment in entrepreneurial support,” said Robert Wilhelm, vice chancellor for research and economic development. “The Ventureprise Charlotte Launch program will provide 90 or more UNC Charlotte students with in-depth technology commercialization knowledge that will be valuable throughout their careers.”

The Ventureprise Charlotte Launch program is designed to catalyze teams whose technology concepts are likely candidates for commercialization. Teams will assess business opportunities for research and inventions primarily developed by UNC Charlotte students and faculty.

“UNC Charlotte is the first university in the Carolinas, Tennessee and Virginia selected for NSF I-Corps designation, which validates our emphasis on the importance of customer engagement for emerging entrepreneurs,” said Paul Wetenhall, president of Ventureprise and principal investigator for the NSF I-Corps Sites grant.

During a three-year period, the NSF will provide annual funding of $100,000 that will enable up to 30 teams annually to complete the program, which will be operated by Ventureprise Inc., the UNC Charlotte-affiliated venture development organization.

Each team will have at least three members including an entrepreneurial lead, an academic lead and a business mentor. The entrepreneurial lead typically will be a student, while the academic lead will be a faculty member with relevant expertise. Business mentors will be selected based upon their entrepreneurial and commercialization experience.

Teams will participate in a 12-week program that will provide first-hand knowledge on entrepreneurship and will explore the transition of teams’ ideas, devices, processes or other intellectual activities into the marketplace. The program will use Lean Launchpad concepts and will emphasize customer discovery through direct contact with prospective customers. NSF funding will support team needs such as prototype development and customer travel.

At the end of the program, teams will be expected to make a commercial viability decision. Successful completion enables teams to be eligible for additional NSF opportunities including the $50,000 NSF I-Corps Team program.

A Ventureprise Summer Accelerator started on May 19 with an initial group of 10 teams and will continue with cohorts in the fall and spring semesters. The summer cohort is made up of five teams from the William States Lee College of Engineering, three teams from the College of Computing and Informatics and one team each from the Department of Biology and the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

The Ventureprise Charlotte Launch program will be managed by an interdisciplinary UNC Charlotte team of Wetenhall and co-principal investigators Devin Collins (Charlotte Research Institute), James Conrad (Lee College of Engineering) and Justin Webb (Belk College of Business).

About Ventureprise

Ventureprise, Inc. is a regional public-private non-profit that supports the commercial success of early-stage, innovation driven entrepreneurs. Through ready-for-business office space located on the campus of UNC Charlotte and comprehensive programs, Ventureprise offers the premier location for inventors, researchers and innovators to come together for business success. With the help of Ventureprise, entrepreneurial companies have the resources they need to accomplish rapid business growth through a supportive, innovative ecosystem made up of community resources, academia and corporations.

About UNC Charlotte

UNC Charlotte is North Carolina’s urban research university. With fall 2014 enrollment of 27,300 students, the University leverages its location in the state’s largest city to offer internationally competitive programs of research and creative activity, exemplary undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs, and a focused set of community engagement initiatives.

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Media Contacts

Ventureprise: Paul Wetenhall |704-687-8057| paul.wetenhall@ventureprise.org

UNC Charlotte media relations contact: Paul Nowell |704-687-5828| 704-582-9250| pmnowell@uncc.edu