Success Story

Penn State to play key role in Mid-Atlantic NSF I-Corps Hub

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Penn State $1.5 million as one of eight universities selected to participate in the Mid-Atlantic NSF I-Corps Hub, led by the University of Maryland. This funding will enable Penn State to expand entrepreneurial training to academic researchers in science and engineering to foster and maintain U.S. global leadership in innovation.

The Hubs will create tools, resources, and training activities; identify and support promising research that can generate economic value; provide opportunities to diverse communities of innovators; and share and leverage effective innovation practices on a national scale.

“Penn State’s research enterprise continues to be a driver of the translation of research out of our labs to benefit the commonwealth, the nation, and the world,” said Dr. Lora Weiss, senior vice president for research. “We’re excited to continue this great work to foster commercialization of discoveries and partner with other leading research institutions across the region, enabling research to strengthen and scale the innovation ecosystem and advance economic development.”

The NSF I-Corps Hubs, funded over five years, will implement the foundation’s Innovation Corps, or I-Corps, program in the research community by creating a network of universities that helps researchers commercialize their technologies and translate the impact of their work to the marketplace. The Hubs, organized in five regional areas, will work collaboratively to build, and sustain a diverse and inclusive innovation ecosystem throughout the U.S. Each regional hub includes at least eight universities.

Dr. James Delattre, associate vice president for research and director of the Office of Entrepreneurship and Commercialization, will serve as co-PI for the Mid-Atlantic NSF I-Corps Hub. Dr. Jessica Menold, Penn State College of Engineering Hartz Family Career Development Assistant Professor of Engineering Design and Mechanical Engineering, will use her expertise in new product development and engineering design to serve as the Hub’s faculty and research lead.

“The long-term success of this initiative lies in our effectiveness at getting the vast intellectual capital on and around our campuses into the marketplace,” said Dr. Delattre. “The expansion of the I-Corps program to a multi-university Hub model will catalyze an integration of resources, cultivate a high-level of collaboration across the Mid-Atlantic Region, and create a living laboratory to study the process of research commercialization.”

Since the Invent Penn State initiative was launched by Penn State President Eric Barron in 2015, Penn State has made significant strides in driving economic development, job creation, and student career success. The NSF awarded Invent Penn State, administered through the Office of Entrepreneurship and Commercialization, I-Corps Site status and $500,000 in September 2017 to support entrepreneurship training and microgrants for university-related startups.

“Over the next five years, we have the incredible opportunity to study startup teams from across the Mid-Atlantic region in-situ which will enable our research team to identify the fundamental characteristics of entrepreneurial ecosystems that contribute to team success or failure, all while investigating the many other variables that affect startups,” said Dr. Menold. “Ultimately, our goal is to identify what separates successful startups from failed startups and develop mitigation strategies universities can employ to increase the likelihood of success based on the unique traits of the startup and the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Other universities joining Penn State in the Mid-Atlantic I-Corps Hub include Carnegie Mellon University, George Washington University, Howard University, Johns Hopkins University, North Carolina State University, the University of Maryland, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Pennsylvania, and Virginia Tech.

“We are excited to partner with some of the most prestigious research institutions in the Eastern US and to lead the research direction of the new Hub,” said Dr. Justin Schwartz, Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of Penn State Engineering. “It is critically important that we work collaboratively to broaden the impact of academic research and drive economic development both locally and regionally.”

To learn more about the Invent Penn State NSF I-Corps Site, visit