Lipinski Bill That Boosts American Innovation and Creates Jobs Passes House

Congressman Dan Lipinski’s (IL-3) Innovators to Entrepreneurs Act of 2018, which helps turn federal research investments into innovative new products and creates jobs, has passed the House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support.

The bill supports the expansion of the successful Innovation Corps program, known as I-Corps, which was created by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2011 to teach scientists and engineers how to turn their laboratory research into successful commercial products and services. 

The centerpiece of the program is the I-Corps Teams course, based on the Lean Launchpad curriculum developed by innovator Steve Blank and widely used throughout Silicon Valley and beyond.  Since its inception, over 1,000 teams have participated in I-Corps.  Thanks to a bill led by Congressman Lipinski, the NSF has been able to expand the I-Corps model to a number of other agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, NASA, and the Department of Energy.

“This bill will help turn more scientists and engineers into entrepreneurs, unleashing American innovation and creating new jobs,” stated Rep. Lipinski.  “America’s future depends on job creation through innovation, and I-Corps is a program that has proven to be successful in helping turn federally-funded research into innovative products and services.  By increasing the accessibility of I-Corps, this bill will significantly increase the return on our research investment and keep America at the cutting edge of innovation.  I want to thank Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Johnson for their leadership in the Science Committee, as well as the lead cosponsor, Mr. Webster of Florida, and Senator Coons, who is leading a companion bill in the Senate.”

Lipinski’s bill expands I-Corps to meet several pressing needs.  It expands eligibility and helps more people participate in the program.  Currently, it is difficult for individuals who are not grantees of the NSF or another agency that participates in I-Corps to access the program.  This bill gives recipients of small business grants from any agency the flexibility to pay for a course with their grant funds, and lets private citizens apply and pay out of pocket to participate.

The legislation also directs the NSF to establish a new course as part of the I-Corps program to teach scientist-entrepreneurs how to start and grow a company.  While the current I-Corps course does a great job of helping determine whether or not an innovation is suitable for commercialization, it offers only limited guidance for what to do after a scientist makes the decision to become an entrepreneur.  Skills like how to write a business plan, hire a team, and attract investment are taught in business schools but not in Ph.D. programs.  The NSF recognized this need and has already begun a pilot program to test curriculum for this new course.  This bill makes sure the new course is fully developed and made available around the country.

Finally, Lipinski’s bill requires a Government Accountability Office assessment of the I-Corps program, its first comprehensive, independent evaluation since it was created.  Although the program’s success to date speaks for itself, it is important to continuously improve it, develop metrics to measure its performance, and ensure that federal funds are well-spent.

This bill has been endorsed by a wide range of stakeholders, including the former NSF program officer who founded the program, Dr. Errol Arkilic, the Stanford professor who developed the curriculum that I-Corps is based on, Steve Blank, and several directors of I-Corps Nodes around the country.  The legislation is also endorsed by the Association of American Universities, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, National Venture Capital Association, Council on Government Relations, and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.

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