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November 07, 2018
A three-year National Science Foundation grant will be tapped to help budding entrepreneurs on campus develop and commercialize projects they develop.

Cal Poly Pomona has earned a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) grant to identify promising research and development projects on campus and help find ways to commercialize them. The university is only one of three CSUs and one of 10 institutions in California to be awarded the grant.


The grant provides opportunities for students to collaborate with faculty and industry to bring their ideas and research to market by forming I-Corps teams. The teams will tap into technical, entrepreneurial and mentorship expertise to generate products the public can use.


The grant also provides Cal Poly Pomona students, faculty and staff with access to NSF’s National Innovation Network. The network’s resources include about $50,000 each year in funding to assist successful I-Corps teams to determine the feasibility of launching successful ventures and participation in a national network of I-Corps teams and mentors to aid their success.


I-Corps has a strong track record in successfully translating research into products and services with commercial appeal. In the past five years, approximately half of the 1,000 I-Corps teams have gone on to start new ventures.


“Cal Poly Pomona’s strategic aspiration, to quote President Coley, is ‘to be the epicenter of creativity, innovation and discovery,’ said Business Professor Olukemi Sawyer, founding director of the Student Innovation Idea Lab (iLab). “I believe our participation in the NSF National Innovation Network will contribute to our ability to attain our aspiration as an institution.”


According to Sawyerr, one of the many reasons Cal Poly Pomona earned the grant was due to the existing “infrastructure to support innovation and entrepreneurship in the iLab.”


Sawyerr will serve as principal investigator on the grant and will work with an interdisciplinary team of faculty members. Co-principal investigators are Winny Dong, chemical and materials engineering professor and founding director of the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR), and Sadiq Shah, associate vice president for Research, Innovation and Economic Development.


Faculty members Yu Sun from the College of Science, Trayan Kushev from the College of Business Administration and Olive Li from the Huntley College of Agriculture join Sawyerr, Dong and Shah on the teaching team. They will be responsible for teaching and training Cal Poly Pomona I-Corps teams.


“NSF is looking for ways to support the culture of entrepreneurship and innovation of our academic experience to better prepare the 21st century workforce for start-ups or corporate career paths, and translating ideas into products or services,” said Shah.

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