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UTRGV receives almost $500,000 from National Science Foundation to establish I-Corps Site

By Cheryl Taylor

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – AUG. 4, 2017 – The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley has been awarded $499,985 in federal funding by the National Science Foundation to establish an NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Site in the Rio Grande Valley.

UTRGV’s Center for Innovation and Commercialization (CIC), a program of the UTRGV Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship (VCOBE), will administer the I-Corps program as defined by NSF grant protocols.

Dr. Mark Kroll, VCOBE Dean, and Dr. Juan Sanchez, interim senior vice president for Research, Innovation, and Economic Development, were the co-principal investigators on the grant.

NSF I-Corps Sites are designed to foster local innovation and entrepreneurship, especially among minority and female students who are normally underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

The program will provide UTRGV students with unique hands-on experience with the innovation and business development process. It brings together inter-disciplinary teams from across the university, along with local entrepreneur-mentors, to work toward the commercialization of new product or service ideas that originate both on and off campus.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for both our business majors and those pursuing STEM fields,” Kroll said. “They will be integral partners in their collaborative environments; they will be empowered, with the goal of launching new, scalable enterprises that will take root and expand, here in the Valley.”

Effective Sept. 1, 2017, the almost half-million-dollar grant will be active for five years, awarding approximately $100,000 each year. Laurie Simmons, CIC manager, will oversee the program.

“Our program will follow the NSF I-Corps model, with 30 teams of three each,” Simmons said. “Generally, the three primary team members are the technical lead, the entrepreneurial lead and the I-Corps mentor. All three members of each team will participate fully in the I-Corps Curriculum, with a goal of successfully transferring knowledge into products and processes that benefit society.”

The CIC has been in operation since 2013.

“Although CIC projects do not take place in one specific building, we look forward to having a facility as home base,” Simmons said. “The university found a good, Valley-central location and has signed a 10-year lease on a structure at 322 S. Missouri Ave. in Weslaco.

“We are in the final design stage,” she said, “and hope to put the project out to bid within the next couple of months. Our target date to open is June 2018.” 


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.

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