SUMMARY: The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is announcing the I-FAST prize competition (the “I-FAST Competition” or the “Competition”) to develop and implement the Innovations in Food and Agricultural Science and Technology (I-FAST) Program. USDA NIFA will partner with the National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) to provide entrepreneurship training to USDA NIFA grantees under this I-FAST pilot program. The goals are to identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from NIFA supported academic research. Selected USDA NIFA I-FAST project teams will have the opportunity to concurrently participate in the educational programs with NSF I-Corps awardees. Over a period of six months the USDA NIFA supported teams in the I-FAST program will learn what it will take to achieve an economic impact with their particular innovation. The final goal of the I-FAST Competition is to facilitate technology transfer of innovations that can make an impact in the marketplace and the global economy.
Subject of the Challenge Competition:
The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) mission is to invest in and advance agricultural research, education, and extension to solve societal challenges. As part of this mission NIFA is charged with providing grant funding for research, education, and extension that address key problems of national, regional, and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of agriculture. A majority of NIFA grant funding is provided to academic institutions to focus on developing research in the areas of farm efficiency and profitability, ranching, renewable energy, forestry (both urban and agroforestry), aquaculture, rural communities and entrepreneurship, human nutrition, food safety, biotechnology, and conventional breeding.
USDA NIFA will partner with the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) who will provide an Entrepreneurial Immersion course and training to USDA NIFA grantees through this I-FAST Competition. The goals of this Competition are to spur translation of fundamental research to the market place, to encourage collaboration between academia and industry, and to train NIFA-funded faculty, students and other researchers to understand innovation and entrepreneurship.
The purpose of the I-FAST Competition is to identify NIFA-funded research teams who will receive additional support, in the form of mentoring, training, and funding to accelerate the translation of knowledge derived from fundamental research into emerging products and services that can attract subsequent third-party funding. NIFA-funded research teams will be required to participate in Entrepreneurial Immersion courses provided by the NSF I-Corps program. Each team that receives an I-FAST award is required to participate in the following NSF I-CORP activities: 1) Attendance by the entire team at an on-site three-day NSF I-CORP Entrepreneurial Immersion course; 2) Mandatory participation in the I-CORPs weekly Webinars following the in-person three day on-site meeting; 3) Completion of approximately 15 hours of preparation per week over the duration of the program; 4) Attendance of a two day lessons learned in-person meeting at the end of the training. During the training, teams are expected to engage in at least 100 contacts with potential customers and provide a 5-page summary report back to USDA NIFA on the outcome of the training and milestones to be met by the team (i.e., commercialization, market proposition, and lessons learned from the program). The major focus of I-FAST is for the selected teams (an I-FAST team includes the Principal Investigator (PI), the Entrepreneurial Lead, and the Mentor) to participate in an Entrepreneurial Immersion course provided by the NSF I-Corps program. The NSF I-Corps is a program specifically designed to broaden the impact of select, basic research projects by preparing scientists and engineers to focus beyond the laboratory. Leveraging experience and guidance from established entrepreneurs and a targeted curriculum within the NSF I-Corp program, USDA I-FAST teams will learn to identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from USDA NIFA supported academic research. The I-FAST Competition will help create a stronger national ecosystem for innovation that couples scientific discovery with technology development to address agricultural and societal needs.
Awards:- Competition Prize Purse will be a maximum of $400,000, which will be divided to provide $50,000 each to a maximum of eight (8) Teams.