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10 Universities Join Rural I-Corps Hub for STEM Innovation

A $15 million, five-year investment from the National Science Foundation aims to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in STEM education and workforce training in underserved rural communities.

STEM science, technology, engineering, math illustration concept
Ten universities have joined the newly awarded National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps): Interior Northeast Region Hub (IN I-Corps), a $15 million, five-year investment by the NSF to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in STEM programs in rural, economically underserved regions, a recent announcement said.

According to a news release, the NSF award is providing the funding to the consortium — consisting of Syracuse University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), SUNY Binghamton, SUNY Buffalo, University of Pittsburgh, University of Rochester, University of Vermont and West Virginia University — for the implementation and execution of the IN I-Corps Hub program. It said the program aims to create a space for rural regions and small cities to develop their own models for inclusive education and workforce training. The announcement added that the region of these institutions represents large portions of the U.S. that are largely rural, economically underserved and working to restore economic vitality.

The announcement added that each institution will host regional I-Corps courses and contribute to curriculums in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Gretchen Ritter, Syracuse’s vice chancellor, provost and chief academic officer, said in a news release that the university’s partnership with the NSF and other colleges will boost entrepreneurism and contribute academic programming and curriculum development in that field.

“We are pleased to lend our expertise and capacities to the I-Corps program goals. Given our institutional priority to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, we are gratified to see that a special program focus is assuring equitable access to resources and talent development among groups that have traditionally been underrepresented in STEM field education,” Ritter said.

In a news release from Dartmouth, Vice Provost for Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer Eric Fossum said the NSF’s support will help entrepreneurs deliver new lab discoveries and inventions into the market and the hands of people who need them.

“The emphasis on human-centered engineering and science is a hallmark of Dartmouth and often results in the creation of startup companies focused on innovation that truly benefits society,” he said in a public statement.

UVM Vice President for Research Kirk Dombrowski said in a public statement that UVM aims to drive growth in STEM programming in Vermont and across the region as part of its land-grant mission.

“I-Corps’ proven record of enabling entrepreneurs to translate ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace speaks for itself, and we’re excited to continue this collaboration to foster the commercialization of discoveries here in Vermont and Northern New England,” he said. “As we partner with other leading research institutions across the interior northeast, our goal is to empower academic research to have the broadest possible societal impact and to advance economic development and greater community equity in the region.”