For the past two years, the I-Corps South team has taken a week away from Atlanta to travel to Ireland and partner with the Science Foundation of Ireland (SFI) as they build out their entrepreneurial programming. While Covid stopped the global trip from happening this year, it did not stop the partnership from growing—the I-Corps team was grateful to be invited back for a virtual workshop.
It began at 6:45a.m. Eastern Time (with a lot of coffee on the U.S. side) to accommodate the time difference. Executive Director Keith McGreggor and Program Directors Melissa Heffner and Sara Henderson kicked off SFI’s Future Innovators Prize by leading workshops on Evidence-based Methodology. Fifteen teams, 45 participants in total, from SFI participated in the curriculum that included Mission Model Canvas and Beneficiary Discovery.
The teams were focused on a Food Challenge—from how to reduce the spoilage to how to address undernutrition—and a Plastics Challenge—on how to reduce plastic waste—as they entered a year-long program for the Future Innovators Prize. The workshop was focused on societal impact goals rather than traditional entrepreneurial endeavors. The I-Corps team was able to adapt their standard curriculum from a business focus to a mission focus so that researchers can think about the larger impact of their solutions and not just the profitability.
The I-Corps curriculum—typically centered around customer discovery and identifying market needs for commercialization of a new technology—focused on preparing teams to conduct interviews to understand what the main issues around their challenges were and if there is a solution.
Melissa Heffner says the virtual program, “was a different experience than our past in-person events. As always, we value the Science Foundation of Ireland’s partnership and the participants’ engagement throughout the sessions.” We at I-Corps South are excited to see the outcome of the year-long Future Innovators competition and look forward to returning to Ireland next year.