NSF selects UK and 8 regional universities to form new innovation hub

The University of Kentucky is a partner in the NSF's new Mid-South Innovation Corps Hub. Photo provided by Lauren Carnahan, Vanderbilt University.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 9, 2022) — The University of Kentucky is a partner in the new Mid-South Innovation Corps Hub, announced by the National Science Foundation (NSF) this week.  

NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Hubs provide experiential entrepreneurial training to academic researchers across all fields of science and engineering. I-Corps Hubs form the operational backbone of the National Innovation Network — a network of universities, NSF-funded researchers, local and regional entrepreneurial communities and other federal agencies — that help researchers translate fundamental research results to the marketplace. 

The Mid-South I-Corps Hub, which will launch in January 2023 and is funded with $15 million for five years, is a regional alliance between lead institution Vanderbilt University, UK, George Mason University, Jackson State University, Meharry Medical College, Tennessee State University, University of Louisville, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and University of Virginia.  

“UK Innovate is proud to partner with these eight other incredible universities and their innovation and entrepreneurship leaders to form the Mid-South I-Corps Hub. We are grateful to the NSF for choosing our inclusive innovation corridor,” said Ian McClure, UK associate vice president for research, innovation and economic impact and executive director of UK Innovate.  

“As a partner in this hub — one of the first 10 hubs under the new NSF I-Corps model — we aim to reduce the time and risk associated with translating promising ideas and technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace, to encourage collaboration between academia and industry, and to train NSF-funded faculty, students, postdocs and other researchers in innovation and entrepreneurship skills,” said McClure. “Through experiential learning of customer and industry discovery, coupled with firsthand investigation of industrial problems and processes, the I-Corps program is meant to assess and advance the translational potential of deep-tech inventions quickly. We look forward to working with our UK innovators in these efforts. 

“Launch Blue is excited to add NSF I-Corps to its continuum of services for university innovators at UK and public universities throughout Kentucky, in partnership with Kentucky Commercialization Ventures,” said Laura Halligan, executive director of Launch Blue. “I-Corps will serve as a follow-on opportunity to continue progress achieved through Launch Blue’s signature UAccel pre-accelerator program for university innovators. We are excited to see the additional value that I-Corps brings to our university innovators and their entrepreneurial growth.” 

About National Science Foundation Innovation Corps program  
Established in 2011, the I-Corps program is designed to support the commercialization of deep technologies, which grow from discoveries in fundamental science and engineering. Since its inception, more than 1,900 NSF I-Corps teams have participated in the program. This year’s five newly funded I-Corps Hubs will join the five hubs funded last year to serve national needs through the following areas of responsibility:  

  • Create and implement tools, resources and training activities that enhance the nation’s innovation capacity 

  • Identify, develop and support promising research that can generate economic value  

  • Gather, analyze, evaluate and utilize the data and insights resulting from the experiences of those participating in local, regional and national I-Corps programs  

  • Provide opportunities to diverse communities of innovators  

  • Share and leverage effective innovation practices on a national scale to improve quality of life throughout the nation  

About UK Innovate 
UK Innovate at the University of Kentucky is the innovation, entrepreneurship and economic enterprise for University of Kentucky Research. Through technology commercialization, corporate partnerships, social innovation, innovation training and economic development initiatives related to UK’s research innovations, talent and community, UK Innovate works to move ideas into the world faster, where they can make the greatest social and economic impact possible. Learn more at 

About Launch Blue 
Launch Blue nurtures promising founders and innovators with scalable technology-based startups through intensive accelerator and incubator programs. In addition to its accelerators and incubators, Launch Blue offers an annual Demo Day to showcase its participants and other programs to contribute to the growing startup ecosystem in Kentucky and the Midwest and Southeast regions. Learn more at 

Programs reported in this publication are supported by the National Science Foundation under Award Number 2229521. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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