IU receives grant to help female, minority scientists become entrepreneurs

  • March 24, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana University, the University of Louisville and Missouri University of Science and Technology are working in partnership to help female and minority faculty, staff and student innovators improve their success in securing money to commercialize their inventions.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the institutions, led by the University of Louisville, a $225,000 grant for a pilot program called AWARE: ACCESS: Building Innovation Capacity through Diversity.

IU partners on the grant include the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI) and the IU Research and Technology Corp. (IURTC), which will hold a commercialization and entrepreneurship summit in fall 2017 in Indianapolis to support the AWARE program. Indiana CTSI, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), accelerates the translational of scientific discoveries in the lab into new patient treatments. IURTC protects, markets and licenses intellectual property developed at IU so it can be commercialized by industry.

"We are thrilled to help Midwestern female and minority entrepreneurs become better equipped to compete for federal funding through this regional grant from the NSF," said Jennifer Finefield, PhD, co-investigator on the grant and senior technology manager at IURTC.

Padma Portonovo, PhD, IU’s co-principal investigator on the grant and program manager at Indiana CTSI, said the AWARE program will help IU and Indiana CTSI support the growth of a more diverse translational research workforce across the state.

“Startup companies are an important stage of the translational research spectrum, so this initiative is key to the Indiana CTSI’s mission of accelerating research to commercialization, and to increase the representation of women and minorities in this process,” Dr. Portonovo said.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, women- and minority-owned small businesses receive less than 16 percent of federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants to move their research and technology to the marketplace.

“Women and underrepresented researchers have great ideas that need to be translated into the marketplace,” said Rob Keynton, UofL’s director of research initiatives and lead investigator of the program. “Unfortunately, these innovators have had limited success in securing federal business grants and other funding. We hope to change that with this new program.”

The pilot program has four major goals for female and minority academic innovators:

  • Identify, engage and mentor them to pursue entrepreneurship as a career
  • Expand educational, experiential and networking opportunities
  • Enhance their competitiveness for federal grant applications
  • Create a regional ecosystem for entrepreneurs and sharing of best practices by UofL, IU and Missouri S&T

“Increasing the participation of women, African-Americans and other underrepresented groups in the technology industry is an important social and economic challenge in America. AWARE: ACCESS will help lay the foundation for making significant progress on this issue,” said Malcolm Townes, associate director of Missouri S&T’s Office of Technology Transfer and Economic Development.

NSF Program Director Jesus Soriano said, “The National Science Foundation recognizes the tremendous potential of women and underrepresented groups in innovation. We hope the AWARE: ACCESS program will enable more underserved groups to achieve their technological and commercial potential and enhance U.S. leadership in science and engineering discovery.”

AWARE: ACCESS is an acronym for Advancing Women And Underrepresented Entrepreneurs: Accelerating Entrepreneurial Success.

About Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute

Established in 2008, the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, directed by Anantha Shekhar, MD, PhD, is a National Institutes of Health-funded statewide collaboration of Indiana University, Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame, along with many public and private corporate partnerships, to facilitate the translation of scientific discoveries in the lab into new patient treatments in Indiana and beyond.

About Indiana University Research and Technology Corp.

IURTC is a not-for-profit corporation tasked with the protecting and commercializing of technology emanating from innovations by IU researchers. Since 1997, IU research has generated more than 2,700 inventions resulting in more than 4,100 global patent applications being filed by IURTC. These discoveries have generated more than $135 million in licensing and royalty income, including more than $112 million in funding for IU departments, labs and inventors.

Padma Portonovo, PhD

Padma Portonovo, PhD

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Jennifer Finefield, PhD

Jennifer Finefield, PhD

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Andrea Zeek