September 1, 2021

PU-Led Innovation Hub Receives $15M From National Science Foundation

By Donald Gilpin

A new Princeton University-led regional innovation hub, seeking to promote entrepreneurial startups based on fundamental science and engineering research, has received $15 million in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The consortium will focus on transforming scientific discoveries into technologies that improve everyday lives, through the fields of health care, energy and the environment, computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, advanced materials, and other areas — and enhance diversity in research opportunities and entrepreneurship.

With the University of Delaware and Rutgers University as partners, Princeton University will be the principal institution in the Innovation-Corps (I-Corps) Northeast Hub, which will also include New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rowan University, Lehigh University, Temple University, and Delaware State University (a historically Black college or university) as initial affiliates. The hub will expand, adding new affiliates each year.

The Northeast Hub is one of five new innovation corps hubs announced by the NSF last week, “a diverse and inclusive innovation system throughout the USA.”  With $3 million funding per year over the next five years, the Northeast Hub will provide entrepreneurial training, mentoring, and other resources to enable researchers to form startup companies that take ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace. 

The new hub is expected to draw on industries in the area, particularly in the fields of health care and pharmaceuticals, energy, the environment, financial technologies, agriculture, communications, and digital information, “to develop a network of cross-sector partnerships that will leverage the investment of federal research dollars in the region’s universities,” according to Princeton University’s announcement of the initiative.

“Princeton is excited to lead this initiative to develop the talent and dynamism of the region’s researchers,” said Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber. “I am especially pleased that the hub will assist those who historically have faced barriers to opportunity and expand the social impact of new discoveries and innovations.”

Princeton University Chemical and Biological Engineering Professor Rodney Priestley, the University’s vice dean for innovation, will be the co-director of the hub, along with Julius Korley, director of entrepreneurship and strategic partnerships in the College of Engineering at the University of Delaware.

“The convergence of different disciplines combined with the diversity of participants will lead to unbound possibilities in U.S. innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Priestley, who is the co-founder of several startups based on research developed in his laboratory at Princeton. “Furthermore, the U.S. will only maintain its global competitiveness by harnessing contributions from all members of society.”

Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) emphasized the impact that the new research hub will have, on the region and beyond. “Federal support for innovation provides a dynamic infusion of resources to energize economic growth, grow employment opportunities, and inspire new generations of entrepreneurial researchers to find solutions to societal challenges,” she said. “New Jersey’s institutes of higher learning have always been on the cutting edge. The National Science Foundation I-Corps Northeast Hub will invigorate the capacity for federally funded research to improve people’s everyday lives.”