The Pitt Ventures First Gear program helps shape Pitt inventions originating from University research from early-stage discovery to products and services that can be taken to market. The program offers hands-on guidance and mentorship that takes 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 the technology.

The Pitt Ventures First Gear program is now a partner with the Interior Northeast I-Corps Hub (IN I-Corps)! See our announcement.

This is a significant change in our programing and will increase the educational opportunities for Pitt innovators throughout the year. As a member of the NSF I-Corps Interior Northeast Hub, Pitt innovators will not only have access to training via the Innovation Institute, but also courses offered through the nine other participating Hub universities.

Who Qualifies?

Researchers who are curious about commercializing their innovations are invited to participate. The Pitt Venture First Gear NSF IN-Corps short courses are open all university principal investigators and students to apply individually or as a team. Preference is given to applicants with university-affiliated technology (i.e., graduate students, post-docs, and faculty.)

Successful applicants will have an early-stage early validated technology innovation, and one to three team members with the ability to spend 8-10 hours per week on class work and conducting 30 customer interviews.

How it Works

With the IN I-Corps Hub the First Gear program offers a free, virtual, month-long regional course guided by expert instructors. Participants will learn to:

  • Evaluate a technology’s commercial potential
  • Find and talk to potential customers and industry stakeholders
  • Identify the real problem(s) the customer needs solved
  • Develop an entrepreneurial mindset.

At the end of the course, expected next steps include applying for additional funding through NSF I-Corps Teams national program (teams must be recommended for Nationals by the I-Corps teaching team), local economic development organization as well as establishing a new startup enterprise and pursuing an external license agreement. Teams completing a regional Hub course have better odds of obtaining additional commercialization funding, such as the Chancellor’s Gap Fund, the Pitt Innovation Challenge, federal SBIR grants, and/or were accepted into regional accelerators such as LifeX or AlphaLab.

See Upcoming Courses & Apply


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