Accelerate UConn, an entrepreneurship program that helps students and faculty commercialize business ideas, reached a major milestone at the end of last year. Launched in 2015, Accelerate UConn announced that 100 teams of aspiring entrepreneurs had participated in the rigorous, seven-week training funded by the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps Program.
Accelerate UConn, which is the only I-Corps site in the state, was launched in May 2015. The program serves all UConn campuses, including UConn Health, and is jointly operated by the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, housed in the School of Business.
“Programs like this help innovative students and faculty take that critical first step out of the lab towards developing technologies that help society,” says Radenka Maric, vice president for research, innovation and entrepreneurship. “Connecting with customers, developing a business strategy, adapting an idea for a better chance of success—these are all essential ingredients for UConn technologies to reach the market where they can support economic development in Connecticut and the nation.”
Accelerate UConn provides a framework for entrepreneurial faculty, staff, and students to assess the market potential of early-stage technologies developed in their labs. Along with early customer contact, the program also provides rigorous NSF-endorsed entrepreneurial training; $3,000 in seed funding to assess market potential; and connections with knowledgeable business mentors to help researchers navigate the specific industry they hope to enter.
“As part of the Accelerate UConn curriculum, we show teams the importance of getting out of the building, or the lab in many cases, and talking with potential customers,” says Jennifer Murphy, director of CCEI. “Customer discovery is crucial at this stage. It also allows teams to better understand the potential pathway to commercialization and which key partners need to be engaged along the way.”
A range of different business ideas and models were presented at the fall 2019 finale. The technologies in this cycle are at varying degrees of development, come from several different disciplines, and serve multiple industries. Some of the teams have already formed startups based on their products or services, while others may seek to develop licensing opportunities with existing companies.
The technologies that gained ground during this cycle of Accelerate UConn include:
- Sustainable packaging material for perishable food items
- Upcycling of materials from used electronics for ethical jewelry design
- Streamlined communications for health, social service providers, and clients
- Service that provides automatic plan-switching to optimize energy plans
- CBD protein bars for managing pain through organic nutrition
- Customizable basketballs with interchangeable covers for better grip
- App that gives researchers access to archival documents
- Service that provides robust solutions to maintenance issues in the aerospace industry
- Innovative fish feed made from non-traditional proteins for use on commercial farms
- Traveling educational arcade to bring interactive learning to students where they live and learn
Applications to the spring 2020 cohort are being accepted until Monday February 3, 2020.