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SUITED Workshop Shares Best Practices in Undergrad Tech Transfer and Entrepreneurship

Faculty and students at predominantly undergraduate institutions (PUIs) are often just as inclined to pursue entrepreneurship as their research university counterparts—they have same the passion for and expertise in STEM, but they lack the support of a technology transfer office. The resulting information and resource gaps can create a significant hurdle limiting movement from laboratory to market.


To address this bottleneck, Union College in Schenectady, NY hosted a two-part solutions-driven workshop, with the second part held in late October. The SUITED Workshop—Supporting Undergraduate Institutions in Technology and Entrepreneurship Development—convened 60 speakers and participants, the latter comprising faculty and staff from PUIs across the country, to share best practices of how to facilitate the progress of research from undergraduate academic lab to the marketplace.


SUITED Part 1, held virtually in January of 2023 with more than 100 participants, sought to demonstrate that PUIs can engage in tech transfer and foster entrepreneurship in a more structured way, identified barriers to entry, and offered information sessions on intellectual property and other issues. At SUITED Part 2, workshop organizers and speakers, including many from the NY I-Corps Hub, offered their extensive knowledge of activities that can support tech translation and entrepreneurship, as well as strategies to overcome barriers and challenges specific to undergrad institutions.

Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), sessions held during SUITED 2 showcased tools to help tackle institutional challenges to participation, build a community that can support these efforts, and share feedback with the NSF on how its policies and programs can better support the needs of undergraduate institutions. The workshop also addressed how to secure support for the NSF’s Technology, Innovation, and Partnership (TIP) activities, which can include technology development, technology transfer, entrepreneurship, commercialization, and innovation. I-Corps was presented as part of the solution to the challenges facing PUIs seeking greater expertise and resources in managing IP, licensing, and other aspects of technology transfer.

“We wanted faculty and administrators to hear our message, and we asked them to participate in this workshop together, said Ann Anderson, Agnes S. MacDonald Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Union College, and SUITED Workshop Organizing Committee Chair. “To do this well, you need institutional change and support.” 

“I think SUITED was particularly impactful because it engages undergraduate administrators alongside faculty,” said Jessica Fields, Associate Director of the NY I-Corps Hub. “It’s helpful for them to see at a high level how expanding support for translation can benefit faculty and students.”

At the workshop, 10 faculty teams from PUIs from across the country presented their current research. Then a panel of judges, including Fields and John Blaho, Director, Industrial-Academic Research, CUNY Central - Division of Innovation and Applied Research, gave feedback to help them begin stakeholder analysis—considering who might care about their technology—and draft an initial business thesis. Discussions followed explaining the business model canvas, the difference between accelerators and incubators, and what grants, including STTR/SBIR, can offer to early-stage startups.


Working groups, helmed in part by the CUNY I-Corps team members, offered counsel on various resources. Arber Ruci, New York I-Corps Hub Entrepreneur in Residence, was at the grants table, explaining how faculty could take advantage of TIP resources; Ariella Trotsenko, New York City Innovation Hotspot Director, addressed questions about accelerators and incubators; and Cira Cardaci, Manager of the New York I-Corps Hub, led an effort for the faculty teams to help them create their first business model canvas. 

That evening, Heidi Knoblauch, Senior Director, NY Ventures, Empire State Development Agency, gave the keynote, sharing her personal journey from academia to entrepreneurship and beyond. On the following day, the participants worked on a “what’s next” plan for their entrepreneurial ecosystem for the next six months, and Fields presented about I-Corps and what it has to offer.

“One of the biggest takeaways for teams was gaining a greater understanding of opportunities that they had not been aware of, including all the NSF’s innovation programs,” added Fields. “Many of the participants are already excited about translating their work into the larger economy, but they also have to think about who they can impact. We are excited to support them in that work and the next phase of their entrepreneurship journey.” 

“It was so satisfying to hear every single team tell us, ‘I had this idea, and no path to get there, and now I have a plan,” shared Anderson. “The team from the NYC I-Corps Hub was absolutely fantastic—we could not have held this workshop without their expertise. Now we will determine our next steps and how we can continue to support entrepreneurship and tech transfer in the PUI community.”


SUITED Part 3 will be held in Fall 2024. To stay tuned on how to apply, visit:




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