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A $1 million award from the National Science Foundation will help the University of Hawaiʻi convert its world-class research into solutions with public impact.

UH has been selected as part of a new National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Hub, joining seven other universities—Arizona State University (lead); University of Arizona; Northern Arizona University; University of California, San Diego; Boise State University; University of Idaho; and University of Nevada, Las Vegas—to form the Desert and Pacific region NSF I-Corps Hub, one of five newly-funded hubs.

“Becoming an NSF I-Corps Hub creates a major opportunity for UH and Hawaiʻi to elevate, grow and diversify the state’s innovation ecosystem and economy,” said Vassilis L. Syrmos, UH vice president for research and innovation. “This partnership is perfectly aligned with our strategic initiative to drive economic diversification and development across the state through research, innovation, entrepreneurship and technology.”

The purpose of NSF I-Corps Hubs is to accelerate the translation of discoveries into new solutions that will benefit society. Each hub is responsible for supporting academic researchers in science and engineering by:

  • Creating and implementing tools, resources and training activities that enhance the nation’s innovation capacity;
  • Identifying, developing and supporting promising research that can generate economic value;
  • Gathering, analyzing, evaluating, and utilizing the data and insights resulting from the experiences of those participating in local, regional and national I-Corps programs;
  • Providing opportunities to diverse communities of innovators; and
  • Sharing and leveraging effective innovation practices on a national scale to impact economic growth and improve quality of life throughout the nation.

The NSF I-Corps team in Hawaiʻi will be led by the UH Office of Innovation and Commercialization (OIC). The team will include:

  • Vassilis L. Syrmos, UH vice president of research and innovation;
  • Debasis Bhattacharya, UH Maui College Applied Business and Information Technology associate professor;
  • Bardia Konh, UH Mānoa College of Engineering assistant professor;
  • Steve Auerbach, OIC interim director; and
  • Rebecca Chung, OIC technology licensing officer and innovation programs manager.

UH OIC will be seeking subject matter experts, mentors and instructors to join the NSF National Innovation Network in Hawaiʻi to support NSF I-Corps experiential training and networking opportunities. The NSF I-Corps program and initiatives will be incorporated into OIC commercialization services and programs, including HITIDE, a UH System innovation incubator, and others.

“This unique opportunity will complement and strengthen our programs and initiatives at UH, and help us cultivate an innovation and entrepreneurship culture, ecosystem and economy across the state,” Auerbach said. “Having an NSF I-Corps presence in Hawaiʻi also allows us to better contextualize NSF I-Corps training, resources and opportunities for our local academic researchers and entrepreneurs.”

The NSF I-Corps program was launched in 2011 to support NSF’s mission through experiential learning using the customer discovery process—allowing teams to quickly assess their inventions’ market potential. I-Corps prepares scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory to increase the economic and societal impact of NSF-funded and other basic research projects. I-Corps is unique, advancing society by: increasing U.S. economic competitiveness; enhancing academic and industry partnerships; and commercializing cutting-edge technologies. For more information about NSF I-Corps, visit NSF’s website.

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