New NSF-funded and Princeton-led innovation hub to accelerate tech, enhance diversity in entrepreneurship, strengthen bonds with universities and open partnership opportunities

Written by
CEFR Staff, adapted from original release by Catherine Zandonella
Aug. 25, 2021

NSF-funded Innovation Corps (I-Corps) hub, formed with partners Rutgers and the University of Delaware plus affiliate universities throughout the region, will broaden diversity in entrepreneurship and cultivate startups that are based on academic research.

Aiming to accelerate the transformation of scientific discoveries into technologies that improve everyday lives, a Princeton University-led consortium of regional universities will form a new innovation network with a $15 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The NSF Innovation Corps (I-CorpsTM) Northeast Hub is one of five new hubs announced this week in a nationwide NSF-funded network of universities formed to accelerate the economic impact of federally funded research – delivering benefits in health care, energy and the environment, computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, advanced materials and other areas – while building skills and opportunities among researchers from all backgrounds, including those historically underrepresented in entrepreneurship.

Princeton will be the principal institution in the new hub, with the University of Delaware and Rutgers University as partner institutions. The hub will include five initial affiliates: New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and Rowan University in New Jersey, Lehigh University and Temple University in Pennsylvania, and Delaware State Universitya Historically Black College or University (HBCU). The hub will expand by adding new affiliates each year.

With funding from NSF over five years, the hub will provide entrepreneurial training, mentoring, and resources to enable researchers to form startup companies that translate laboratory discoveries into breakthrough products and services in health care, energy and the environment, computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, advanced materials and more.

Princeton and the two partner institutions, Rutgers University and the University of Delaware, will assemble entrepreneurial instructors for training programs, recruit mentors, and offer entrepreneurial programming for teams of scientists who apply to participate with the goal of transitioning a technology into the marketplace.

“Princeton is excited to lead this initiative to develop the talent and dynamism of our region’s researchers,” said Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber. “I am especially pleased that the hub will assist those who historically have faced barriers to opportunity and expand the societal impact of new discoveries and innovations.”

As the lead institution, Princeton will provide overall governance of the hub under the guidance of Dean for Research Pablo Debenedetti, the Class of 1950 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science and a professor of chemical and biological engineering.

Rodney Priestley, Princeton University’s Vice Dean for Innovation and the Pomeroy and Betty Perry Smith Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, will be the co-director of the hub. Priestley is the co-founder of several startups based on research developed in his laboratory at Princeton, and leads Princeton Innovation, an initiative to broaden entrepreneurial activities based on University discoveries.

“The convergence of different disciplines combined with the diversity of participants will lead to unbound possibilities in U.S. innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Priestley, co-founder of several startups based on research developed in his laboratory at Princeton. “Furthermore, the U.S. will only maintain its global competitiveness by harnessing contributions from all members of society.”

Princeton’s leadership of the I-Corps hub aligns with the mission and core values of Princeton Innovation and the commitment to work collaboratively to nurture and strengthen the innovation ecosystem; to build a culture that encourages innovation by the community of researchers and entrepreneurs; and to support diversity and inclusivity as an integral part of innovation. Since Priestley began his tenure as Princeton’s inaugural Vice Dean for Innovation in February 2020, Princeton Innovation has been steadily launching new opportunities and events, many of which are open to those beyond the Princeton University community.

We encourage companies, foundations and nonprofit associations to contact us to explore ways your organization can engage with Princeton Innovation and the new I-Corps Northeast Hub.

For more information on the new I-Corps Northeast Hub, visit the Hub website and read Princeton's announcement.