Faculty use National Science Foundation awards to jumpstart commercialization

A team of Florida State University researchers looking to bring their work from the laboratory to the marketplace just got a big boost from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Bruce Locke, FSU’s associate vice president for Academic Affairs, along with Robert Wandell, a doctoral student in chemical and biomedical engineering, and an industry mentor, David O’Hara, received the NSF’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) award, which provides researchers with funding, plus set curriculum and programming to help guide them through the process of commercializing their research products.

“This was an eye opening experience which fundamentally changed our thinking on the prospects of our technology,” Locke said.

Locke, who is also a professor of chemical and biomedical engineering, and Wandell are trying to turn their work on plasma systems into a business. O’Hara, who runs his own technology company, Parallax Research Inc. in Tallahassee, is providing them with guidance and a business perspective.

The team received a $50,000 grant through a successful I-Corps application, and attended a short course on business development and met with about 100 companies and potential clients to assess market potential of their process.

FSU’s Office of Commercialization is actively encouraging NSF-focused faculty researchers to apply for these grants to help give them a commercial and professional edge.

“The I-Corps program is a risk-free chance for NSF grantees to explore the practical application of a piece of their research with $50,000 funding from NSF,” said John Fraser, assistant vice president for Research & Economic Development. “This is a way in which faculty can raise their profile through a major funding agency.”

This is the third time a Florida State research team has received an I-Corps award, the most of any university in the state of Florida.

The past winners are:

Piyush Kumar

Kumar, an associate professor in computer science, received the Innovation Corps award in 2012 to help him develop a mobile app that uses road graphs and complex geometric algorithms to help businesses and other groups find the closest, cheapest places to meet.

Alan Lemmon

Lemmon, an assistant professor in scientific computing specializing in bioinformatics, received the I-Corps award in 2013 to help further his work on phylogenics, the evolutionary relationship between organisms.

To learn more about the opportunity, contact FSU’s Office of Commercialization.