science support

Houston university granted $1.2M to expand STEM-focused initiative

Rice University is one of the founding partners of the science foundation’s Southwest I-Corps Node. Photo via Rice University/Twitter

Rice University is receiving a five-year $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to expand a program that helps faculty members, researchers, and doctoral students commercialize STEM-oriented technology.

Rice is one of the founding partners of the science foundation’s Southwest I-Corps Node. Rice and the two other founding partners are sharing a $15 million grant to help add five universities to the program.

Rice, Texas A&M University, and the University of Texas established the Southwest node in 2014. The five schools forming a new hub within the node are the University of Texas at San Antonio, the University of Texas at El Paso, Oklahoma State University, New Mexico State University, and Louisiana State University.

The foundation’s I-Corp program not only boosts STEM-related technologies developed at universities, but it also provides $50,000 grants for STEM-based faculty members and doctoral students to participate in a six-week training program to help researchers bring technologies from the lab to the marketplace. Over 1,000 startups have been formed after completing the I-Corps program; they have raised more than $750 million in funding.

Kerri Smith, associate managing director of the Rice Alliance, leads the university’s I-Corps program, along with Kaz Karwowski, executive director of the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership, and Jessica Fleenor, a Rice Alliance I-Corps teaching assistant and I-Corps program manager.

“Thanks to the Rice Alliance’s more than two decades of leadership, Rice has built an entrepreneurial culture on campus, served as a founding member of the I-Corps program, and provided entrepreneurial education to hundreds of faculty and students,” says Reginald DesRoches, president of Rice.

Rice has received more than $3.1 million in National Science Foundation grants for the I-Corps program, plus about $1.3 million as part of the I-Corps node. Rice faculty members and researchers have received more than $600,000 in I-Corps grants.

Previous I-Corps participants at Rice include:

  • Volumetric Biotechnologies, a startup founded by Jordan Miller, an assistant professor of bioengineering assistant professor, and based on Miller’s 3D organ-printing technology. Volumetric was acquired last year by 3D Systems for up to $400 million.
  • SPLAY (formerly Arovia), which completed the I-Corps program in 2015. Through two Kickstarter campaigns, the company has successfully raised money for its high-definition, portable, large-scale computer display technology.

Trending News

Building Houston

 
 

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 154

Houstonian designs new experiences to encourage innovation in students

Sarah Essama of Teach For America Houston shares how she innovated a new way for students themselves to learn how to innovate. Photo courtesy of Sarah Essama

As director of social innovation at Teach For America Houston, it's Sarah Essama's job to come up with new ways for the organization to support both students and teachers. But, as she explains on the Houston Innovators Podcast this week, Essama realized a huge lesson modern students needed was to learn this innovation process themselves.

Part of being an educator is to prepare students for tomorrow, Essama explains, but with rapid technology development and adaption, no one knows what the future will hold for the job market or the world in general. The best way to prepare the future generation of the workforce is to teach them how to innovate, think differently, and adapt to new ways of doing things.

"That's what people are looking for right now — people who can provide out-of-the-box solutions to problems," Essama says on the show.

This line of thinking turned into Essama founding The Dream Lab, powered by Teach for America Houston.

"The Dream Lab is a set of immersive design spaces where young people leverage their imagination and creativity to innovate and solve problems within their community," she explains.

Last month, the new concept rolled out to high school students in partnership with DivInc Houston, a nonprofit focused on social and economic equity in entrepreneurship, and 21 ninth graders spent the day at the Ion for a mini-innovation accelerator and design showcase.

Strategically, Essama tapped into the Houston innovation ecosystem with the intent of showcasing the community.

"Innovation to me is being able to create something that has never been seen or done before — and that has a very important purpose," she says. "Exposing ourselves to innovation and people who think this way — and learning from them —is key to be able to be competitive tomorrow."

Essama says this program is still in the development phase. She's been testing out the concept with fourth graders and now ninth graders. She hopes the full program will be up and running by next fall.

She shares more details about the grant and the future of The Dream Lab on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.

Trending News