American author and lecturer Helen Keller once said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.” At the Innovation Institute, we are optimistic about the commercial potential for your research. This attitude, combined with our entrepreneurial programs and invaluable network of experts, has recently afforded us the opportunity to be designated as a National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps program site.

What does this mean for Pitt Innovators like you?
It means a great deal. An optimistic outlook alone is not substantial enough to support your dream. You also need the resources and support necessary to commercialize your innovation and present it to society so that it can change people’s lives. The Innovation Institute’s NSF I-Corps Site program provides these resources and helps advance your discovery toward commercial use. We recently hosted an NSF I-Corps Funding Webinar, which you can view here for more details.

First Gear Herl Pitt Entrepreneurship Commercialization

To help bring your innovation to society, the Innovation Institute deploys “Pitt Ventures” a programmatic approach that involves a strong coalition of partners and a multi-stage task oriented commercialization process. We refer to each stage of Pitt Ventures as “Gears.” The First Gear is the “prove it” stage where innovators assess the value proposition, path to market, competitive landscape and customer base for their discovery. Our First Gear cohorts will each receive $3,000 in funding to help validate the market-readiness of their innovation, and also qualify for additional NSF funding of larger amounts.

What is First Gear? The First Gear program is a series of workshops offering hands-on guidance and mentorship that take an inventor through the necessary steps in creating a go-to-market plan that can result in the creation of a new enterprise or licensing agreement for their innovation.

To qualify for First Gear, you must be working on University of Pittsburgh research, have filed or working toward filing an invention disclosure with the University’s Office of Technology Management and have a team comprised of an Academic Lead (faculty),Entrepreneurial Lead (faculty or student) and Mentor (business expert).

The program consists of 6 cohort-based workshops over an eight week period. The expectations of the cohort teams include attending each 2 hour workshop, reviewing flipped-classroom videos prior to the workshops, interviewing potential customers and stakeholders, and preparing assigned slides for a weekly update to the class. You will also have weekly 30 minute coaching sessions with your mentor and the Innovation Institute teaching team.

We encourage you to immerse yourself in this entrepreneurial culture at First Gear. You will be introduced to entrepreneurship, get direct access to a Business Mentor, and have the opportunity to network with potential partners on and off campus.

Entrepreneurship requires support and should not be done alone; Helen Keller also said “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Together, through the First Gear Program, we will prove your innovation has the potential to impact society.

Complete an application and return it to Applications for the Spring 2016 cohort must be submitted by February 2. Do not miss this valuable opportunity! Only 10 teams will be accepted to this cohort.