An interdisciplinary team of UNLV professors will create a new program to help faculty and students partner with industry leaders to move technology ideas and discoveries from paper to the marketplace.
With funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the UNLV Lean Entrepreneurship Advancement Program (LEAP) will provide university research teams with infrastructure, advice, resources, networking opportunities, training, and modest funding to commercialize their ideas and discoveries. Andrew Hardin, associate dean for research in the Lee Business School, will lead LEAP’s Innovation Corps Site on campus along with Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering professors Brendan O’Toole and Pushkin Kachroo.
The goal, project leaders say, is to strengthen innovation locally and regionally and to create an atmosphere where mentors, researchers, entrepreneurs and investors can flourish. And it's not just for areas one might expect, such as business, sciences, health sciences, hospitality and engineering. The program will target participation from disciplines across the entire university.
“This is an exciting opportunity for our campus and for the business community,” Hardin said. “This funding will enable us to help people who are filing invention disclosures and patents move closer to commercialization more quickly. The LEAP training helps them apply for more money and even more training, develop their prototype, and hopefully develop some skills to do customer development because that's usually what's lacking: They make great technology but don't talk to enough customers before launching their business. This helps them get feedback, develop it from there, and have a much better chance of success."
All teams will consist of an entrepreneurial lead, who will be a student, post-doctoral researcher, or staff member; an academic lead, who will be a faculty member able to act as the lead on future proposals or submissions to NSF; and an experienced mentor — secured by the team on their own or via LEAP assistance — with industry-relevant experience.
“We are delighted that Andrew and his team have received this grant, as it will support many institutional efforts to enhance commercialization of university discoveries,” said Tom Piechota, UNLV Vice President of Research and Economic Development.
Students and faculty with discoveries will be encouraged to apply to the program, and a committee of UNLV faculty and staff, along with business community members, will choose the most promising teams for funding. The $255,000 NSF grant will be distributed over three years to teams, which will receive up to $3,000 each.
Application materials for the program will be available by April. “Lean LaunchPad” training will be offered through workshops and courses in the Lee Business School. The program will be supported by UNLV’s Center for Entrepreneurship, the Mendenhall Innovation Program, the Division of Research and Economic Development, and the Nevada Small Business Development Center.