NSF Innovation Corps

Steve Blank, an entrepreneur, investor and educator from Stanford writes about the US National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps on his blog.

This is an extremely interesting idea, and one which is somewhat similar, albeit on a larger scale, to our ownTechnology Innovation Development Award (TIDA) programme. As he describes it, the NSF Innovation Corps is an incubator for scientists, where they take their basic research developments and look at commercialization opportunities, and ultimately to prepare them to attract external private (Venture Capital) funding.

63 scientists and engineers in 21 teams made ~2,000 customer calls in 10 weeks, turning laboratory ideas into formidable startups. 19 of the 21 teams are moving forward in commercializing their technology.

The 3-person teams consisted of Principal Investigators (PI’s), mostly tenured professors (average age of 45,) whose NSF research the project was based on. The PI’s in turn selected one of their graduate students (average age of 30,) as the entrepreneurial lead. The PI and Entrepreneurial Lead were supported by a mentor (average age of 50,) with industry/startup experience.

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Catching up with SFI in the news

After a few very busy weeks, and little or no blogging, I had an opportunity to catch up on some recent articles related to SFI in the news over the weekend. So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are a few of the stories that caught my attention:



Not specifically SFI related, but there’s a very interesting piece by Karlin Lillington in the Irish Times from a few weeks back about Universities having a lot to learn about start-ups.

“We’re still not obtaining any Irish high performance companies despite the efforts of funding research and technology transfer through organisations such as Science Foundation Ireland,” he [Dr. Rory O’Shea of the UCD School of Business] says. “When you really look at the companies, most are lifestyle companies, add-on consulting companies, rather than high impact companies.”

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Travelling in China

Here’s a fascinating piece about the measures that many companies and government organisations are taking when their employees visit China, Russia and some other countries carrying electronic devices:

McAfee, the security company, said that if any employee’s device was inspected at the Chinese border, it could never be plugged into McAfee’s network again. Ever. “We just wouldn’t take the risk,” said Simon Hunt, a vice president.


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SFI gets a new Director General

This is probably old news for anybody who follows this blog, but on Monday Science Foundation Ireland announced a new Director General: Prof. Mark Ferguson. Prof. Ferguson is formerly of Manchester University and is the co-founder of Renovo.

From the official press release:

Welcoming Prof. Ferguson’s appointment, Prof. Pat Fottrell, Chairperson of SFI, said “The SFI Board is delighted, following an extensive international recruitment process that commenced last year, to appoint Prof. Ferguson as Director General. Prof. Ferguson’s track record over the past three decades has been one of continued excellence in both the academic and commercial spheres, and his arrival marks the start of a new stage in SFI’s journey.”

Commenting on his appointment, Prof. Ferguson stated: “We live in exciting times for science, where endeavour and ingenuity are making a notable impact on the world around us. Through determination, sustained investment and the convergence of expertise across scientific, engineering and commercial disciplines, Ireland has leaped up the international rankings for its quality of research output. I am relishing the opportunity of working closely with SFI’s Board, staff, esteemed research community, commercial and other partners, to help continue this level of progress and influence. I am passionate about science, its commercial exploitation and its societal and economic benefits.”

Also covered in the Irish Times, RTE News, InsideIreland and many other venues.

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Science Gallery gets Google funding

HomeI’ve previously written briefly about the Science Gallery based in TCD. I’ve taken my kids there a couple of times, and they have always enjoyed it.

Well, apparently, Google has granted a €1m award to the Science Gallery for the development of a Global Science Gallery Network. Excellent news, and a fantastic coup for Michael John Gorman and his team at the Gallery.

This story also gets coverage on the RTE News site and the Irish Times.

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ScienceInsider comments on SFI budget

ScienceInsider has a small piece commenting on SFI’s 2012 budget. This figure has been published at a national level for a few weeks, but it’s the first mention of it that I’ve seen in the international science press.

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Government Document on Public Sector Reform

The Irish Government today published a document entitled Public Service Reform. This document sets out a strategy as to how the Government intends to update or reform the public and civil service over the coming years.

It’s not my place to comment on the nature of the reforms, or whether I agree or disagree with them, but I will highlight some proposed reforms outlined in the “Rationalisation of State Agencies” appendix to the document that might be of interest to those of us in the scientific community in Ireland. The following extracts are taken verbatim from the report:

  • Merge Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology & Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Science into consolidated single council under HEA
  • Establish the scope to merge Forfás into the Department
  • Merge the Digital Hub Development Authority with Enterprise Ireland/IDA
  • Commission for Communication Regulation: Merge with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.
  • Expert Group on Future Skills Needs: Absorb into Department (Education).
  • Advisory Council for Science, Technology and Innovation: Absorb into Department (DJEI).
  • Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government: Examine absorbing into Science Foundation Ireland.

From my reading of the report, there is no mention of PRTLI or HRB, nor any other mention of SFI, apart from the final bullet point above.

There is further commentary and analysis of the document on the RTE News website.

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