Sixteen new teams will take one step closer to commercialization at the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps, or I-Corps Site, at Carnegie Mellon University. The sweet 16 were announced today by CMU’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE).

Comprised of both undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and even some alumni from a variety of cross-campus disciplines, the teams will work to further develop innovations with funding from a three-year, $300,000 grant awarded by the NSF in the fall.

The NSF developed the I-Corps Site program to help faculty and students at universities take their ideas and research into the marketplace.

The I-Corps Site program was created by CMU President Subra Suresh when he was the director of the NSF.

This is the second round of I-Corps Site teams to be selected at CMU. The first group was chosen in the fall when the program began. The grant provides funding for 30 teams each academic year for three years.

“The whole idea is to take research from the university out of the lab for the benefit of society,” says David Mawhinney, co-director of the CIE. The funding helps the teams, or startup companies, foster the development necessary to commercialize their innovations and adapt their products to better meet customer needs.

The innovations represented by these 16 groups are as varied as their team members’ areas of study. For example, Nebulus is a company comprised of graduate music technology majors, graphic designers and more, who are enhancing an existing product that provides musicians with real-time, cross-platform collaboration, explains Mawhinney.

Another team, led by a faculty member and Ph.D. student, is developing PalpAid, a low-cost technology that will give women and their primary care clinicians an alternative to invasive, stressful and costly methods of tracking benign breast masses.

Other innovations range from technologies for bio-printing 3-D tissues for regenerative medicine to a wireless wearable call bell for nurses.

Along with becoming members of the NSF’s National Innovation Network, the 16 teams will receive up to $2,000 to further their business ventures, with access to CMU’s Project Olympus incubator space, business mentoring and proprietary LaunchPad Central software for documentation.

For the next cycle of team selection that will occur in the fall of 2015, CMU will partner other local universities, including the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University, says Mawhinney.

“The NSF I-Corps Site program at CMU shines a spotlight on what makes our regional entrepreneurial ecosystem so effective,” says Mawhinney.  “This is a private/public partnership that brings federal funding from the National Science Foundation to commercialize university ideas and research, marries it with state funding through organizations like Innovation Works and the private investment network that we are building at CMU.  The net effect is that we create valuable companies that generate well-paying jobs for the region.”

Laurie Bailey

Laurie Bailey is a freelance writer who has reported for many local publications. When she isn't writing she serves as a media consultant for nonprofits and other local companies.