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June 16 -- The Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP), National Science Foundation (NSF), invites comments to OMB by July 16, 2021 on its proposal to collect outcomes data from members of the I-Corps National Innovation Network (NIN).
 
The NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program was established at NSF in FY 2012 to equip scientists with the entrepreneurial tools needed to transform discoveries with commercial realization potential into innovative technologies. The goal of the I-Corps Program is to use experiential education to help researchers reduce the time necessary to translate a promising idea from the laboratory bench to widespread implementation. In addition to accelerating technology translation, NSF seeks to reduce the risk associated with technology development conducted without insight into industry requirements and challenges. The I-Corps Program uses a lean startup approach to encourage scientists to think like entrepreneurs through intensive workshop training and ongoing support. The program focuses on teams comprised of a Principal Investigator, Entrepreneurial Lead, and Mentor that work together to explore commercialization for their research-derived products.

In FY 2017, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA), Public Law 114-329, Sec 601, formally authorized and directed the expansion of NSF I-Corps Program by increasing the economic competitiveness of the United States, enhancing partnerships between academia and industry, developing an American STEM workforce that is globally competitive, and supporting female entrepreneurs and individuals from historically underrepresented groups in STEM through mentorship, education, and training.

To that end, NSF built and has continued expanding an I-Corps National Innovation Network (NIN). NIN is a collection of NSF I-Corps Nodes and Sites that together with NSF implement the I-Corps program to grow and sustain the national innovation ecosystem. I-Corps Nodes are typically large, multi-institutional collaborations that deliver NSF national I-Corps Teams training curriculum as well as recruit and train the National I-Corps instructors. Sites are entrepreneurial centers located at individual colleges and universities to catalyze potential I-Corps teams within their local institutions. Together, the Nodes and Sites serve as the backbone of the NIN.

Recently, IIP published a new I-Corps Program Solicitation, NSF 20-529—NSF Innovation Corps Hubs Program (I-CorpsTM Hubs), that has placed a strong emphasis on developing and further expanding the NIN. The I-Corps Hubs Program has strengthened the requirements to support a diverse and inclusive community of innovators, in that teams are encouraged to recruit diverse members at all levels. In addition, the I-Corps Hubs Program also provides new pathways for teams to qualify for the participation in the national I-Corps Teams program (at the Nodes). Through this solicitation, NSF seeks to evolve the current structure, in which NSF I-Corps Teams, Nodes, and Sites are funded through separate programs, towards a more integrated operational model capable of sustained operation at the scope and scale required to support the expansion of the NSF I-Corps Program as directed by AICA.

The I-Corps Hubs Program Reporting was designed and specifically tailored to collect information on two of the four themes (items 1 and 2) that NSF reports to Congress (to meet the AICA mandates):
1.    Training an Entrepreneurial Workforce
2.    Translating Technologies
3.    Nurturing an Innovation Ecosystem
4.    Enabling Economic Impact.  

There are measurable indicators that are tied to specific analytical objectives within each theme:
1.    Training an Entrepreneurial Workforce
I-Corps is an experiential educational program designed to help entrepreneurial researchers reduce the time necessary to translate a promising idea from the laboratory bench to widespread implementation. The training and mentoring open future opportunities in entrepreneurship as a career path.  Former I-Corps participants have noted that they have obtained a new set of tools for research with impact.  The count of I-Corps participants, therefore, is a good measure for the size of entrepreneurial workforce trained, as such we plan to collect data on:
a.    I-Corps Participants -- The number of participants that complete the I-Corps Hubs Program
b.    Women in I-Corps -- The number of female participants that complete the I-Corps Hubs Program
c.    Broadening Participation -- The number of participants from underrepresented communities that complete the I-Corps Hubs Program

2.    Translating Technologies
As each I-Corps team focuses on a specific technology, the number of teams is a good measure for the number of technologies assessed for translational potential, as is number of I-Corps teams who subsequently apply for and receive funding from the NSF Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. We plan to collect information on:  
a.    I-Corps Teams -- The number of I-Corps teams that participate in the I-Corps Hubs Program.  Specifically, the number of the I-Corps Hubs teams that 1) applied, and 2) received NSF SBIR/STTR Phase I funding subsequent to the completion of the Hubs Program.

The reporting of this information is in addition to the agency's annual report requirement for the grantees. Not only will the information help the agency report on NIN activities to Congress, they also provide managing Program Directors a means to monitor the operational states of these I-Corps Sites, Nodes, and Hubs, and ensure that their awards are in good standing. These data will also allow NSF to assess these awardees in terms of intellectual, broader, and commercial impacts that are core to our merit review criteria. Finally, in compliance with the Evidence Act of 2019, information collected will be used in satisfying congressional requests, responding to queries from the public, NSF's external merit reviewers who serve as advisors, and NSF's Office of the Inspector General, and supporting the agency's policymaking and internal evaluation and assessment needs.
 
I-Corps websites: https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/i-corps/ and https://venturewell.org/i-corps/
I-Corps data collection proposal to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202106-3145-003 Click on IC List for data collection instruments, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation
FR notice inviting comment to OMB: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/06/16/2021-12665/agency-information-collection-activities-comment-request-nsf-i-corps-regional-hubs-assessment
 
Points of contact: Rebecca Shearman (703) 292-74035 rshearma@nsf.gov; Ruth Shuman (703) 292-2160 rshuman@nsf.gov
 
For AEA members wishing to provide comments to OMB, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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