NSF Grant Awarded to Establish University of Montana I-Corps Site

September 27, 2018

MISSOULA – The National Science Foundation has awarded the University of Montana funding to stimulate STEM research and innovation with commercialization potential.

The three-year grant is expected to total $218,000 and will establish the University of Montana as an I-Corps Site.

“The UM I-Corps Site will capitalize on the success of the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship program at the University of Montana,” said Blackstone LaunchPad Director Paul Gladen, who will serve as one of the UM principal investigators. “It will foster an entrepreneurial ecosystem at UM and continue to develop the strong entrepreneurial culture and community in Montana.”

The other principal investigators are:

  • Scott Mills, UM associate vice president of research for global change and sustainability and professor of wildlife biology;
  • Jakki Mohr, Regents Professor of Marketing with the UM College of Business;
  • Monica Serban, assistant professor in Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences;
  • and Dr. Travis Wheeler, assistant professor of Computer Science.

“This award signals that UM has a credible presence in developing an entrepreneurial culture and builds on the great work being done by our community,” Mohr said. “I'm thrilled to be able to participate in continuing these efforts."

The program’s key objectives are:

  1. Expand participation in entrepreneurship from UM students, postdocs, staff and faculty in STEM fields and build entrepreneurial skills;  
  2. Increase participation of women, Native Americans, and other underrepresented groups in both STEM fields and entrepreneurship;
  3. Increase commercialization success of STEM innovation at UM;
  4. Generate strong STEM teams that are well-prepared for National I-Corps training; and
  5. Develop and assess programming that fosters an entrepreneurial ecosystem in a rural setting.

The UM I-Corps Site will facilitate the creation of Entrepreneurial Teams, with Entrepreneurial Leads from STEM fields. Teams will be provided with Exploration Grants to facilitate exploration of commercialization potential through customer discovery. Teams will use existing resources at BLPT-UM and undergo STEM-specific training based on Lean LaunchPad methodology as they develop entrepreneurial skills and become a part of the unique entrepreneurial community in Missoula.

Serban said she believes “this grant gives UM the opportunity to identify and train future entrepreneurs to maximize the potential of in-house developed innovation and to give back to the community by boosting the local economy.”

The Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship program helps University of Montana students succeed. Open to all students and alumni in all majors, the campus-based Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars enables participants to connect with mentors, grow their network and access the resources to accelerate the success of their business.

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Contact: Paul Gladen, director, UM Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars, 406-396-3534, paul.gladen@umontana.edu.