Logo: University of Southern California

NSF Funding Startups

Entrepreneurship at USC Viterbi gets a boost thanks to grant funding
By: Cassie Paton
August 08, 2014 —
Funding from the National Science Foundation will directly benefit entrepreneur programs like the Viterbi Start-Up Garage (pictured above)

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded a $300,000 grant to the USC I-Corps Site Program to fund startups and entrepreneurship among faculty and students.
The money will be distributed through USC Viterbi’s Maseeh Entrepreneurship Prize Competition (MEPC) and the USC iDiploma Certificate Program. These programs provide not only the funds to get research and business ventures off the ground but also educational programs and mentorship to participating teams.
Peter Beerel, associate professor in the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering, faculty director of innovation and entrepreneurship in engineering and principal investigator on the I-Corps Site Program, said $100,000 will be distributed every year for the next three years among about 30 teams of budding entrepreneurs and NSF principal investigators interested in getting their technologies out to the marketplace.
Jennifer Dyer, executive director of the USC Stevens Center for Innovation, is the co-principal investigator.
Beerel expects that the MEPC will receive even more applicants who will benefit directly from NSF’s funding. Even MEPC entries that don’t win the top $50,000 prize or four smaller finalist prizes could still receive small $2,000 to $3,000 awards in startup support.
“The whole goal here is to take research one step further,” Beerel said. “Typically, when we as faculty do research, we publish it and our peers see it, but we don’t necessarily make the effort to get it into the marketplace because it hasn’t always been the university’s focus.”
But now, NSF is putting hundreds of millions of dollars toward funding nationwide to encourage a change in that culture. Andrea Belz, Entrepreneur in Residence (Technology) at the USC Marshall School of Business, said, “The I-Corps grants represent the first step in transforming technologies into potential new companies."
“They’re saying, ‘We value not only published work in journals, but actively getting it out into the marketplace, as well,’” Beerel said.
 “Having this stake in the ground and saying that innovation is important adds prestige to the entire process," he added.