Innovation skills can be learned. Through Berkeley Lab’s I-Corps Lite training program, innovators can learn to commercialize their technology or refine their new idea to maximize its impact. I-Corps Lite is a series of four short training sessions where Berkeley Lab scientists learn from commercialization experts how to test and refine their ideas in a business context, and attract market funding. Lab participants can charge some of their time to the I-Corps budget.
Do you want money for your idea? While a scientific background can lead to groundbreaking solutions to technical problems, business acumen is what takes these solutions to the marketplace. I-Corps Lite training provides market discovery training tailored to Lab scientists and employees, helping them embrace an entrepreneurial mindset and apply it to their work. The program teaches methods on how to vet a new idea by interviewing stakeholders, with the goal of discovering unbiased data to understand how the new idea might be received by the market. Since I-Corps involves testing and refining ideas with real-world feedback, it mimics the scientific process and comes naturally to many scientists.
While the I-Corps program was originally designed by startup experts for new business ideas, it has also been proven to work in other situations, such as taking real industry feedback to sponsors to help secure funding.
The course has helped past participants frame and present their ideas to the market and stakeholders. Nathan Hillson, lead of the Joint BioEnergy Institute’s (JBEI) Synthetic Biology Informatics Group, participated in the NSF I-Corps program at a critical point in the evolution of the Agile BioFoundry. “It allowed us to document the strong demand for a biomanufacturing institute,” said Nathan.
“I feel like I’m ⅔ Ph.D scientist and ⅓ entrepreneur. Part of me wants to do something different and see a technology enter the marketplace and be successful,” said Peter Therkelsen, Deputy of the Building and Industrial Applications Department in the Energy Technologies Area.
Peter Frischmann, a former Lab scientist and co-founder and CEO of Sepion Technologies, said, “I’m convinced it helped us clench an ARPA-E award. What I learned in I-Corps was absolutely essential to understanding and effectively articulating the business opportunity of our battery technology. It significantly altered our outlook on the technological demands necessary to gain market traction.”
So if you think that you too could start a company–or even if you just want to show a funding agency your research idea has a good chance of leaving the Lab and entering the marketplace in an impactful way, consider signing up for the I-Corps Lite course.
The next course will be virtual and held in the summer of 2022, from early July to early August, with four 90-minute online sessions plus assigned work. For more information, contact Jeremy Greeter (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the Intellectual Property Office.