Science & Technology

Princeton University-led Consortium Forms Northeast Innovation Hub

Aiming to accelerate the transformation of scientific discoveries into technologies that improve everyday lives, a Princeton University-led consortium of regional universities will form a new innovation network with a $15-million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The NSF Innovation Corps (I-CorpsTM) Northeast Hub is one of five new hubs announced this week in a nationwide NSF-funded network of universities formed to accelerate the economic impact of federally funded research – delivering benefits in healthcare, energy and the environment, computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, advanced materials and other areas – while building skills and opportunities among researchers from all backgrounds, including those historically underrepresented in entrepreneurship.

Princeton will be the principal institution in the new hub, with the University of Delaware and Rutgers University as partner institutions. The hub will include five initial affiliates: New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and Rowan University in New Jersey, Lehigh University and Temple University in Pennsylvania, and Delaware State University, a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). The hub will expand by adding new affiliates each year.

“Princeton is excited to lead this initiative to develop the talent and dynamism of our region’s researchers,” said Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber. “I am especially pleased that the hub will assist those who historically have faced barriers to opportunity and expand the societal impact of new discoveries and innovations.”

“Rutgers is excited to partner in forming this hub, which speaks both to our region’s excellence in scientific research focused on our nation’s most urgent challenges and to its incredible diversity,” said Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway. “This will help us provide opportunity to a new generation of researchers and spur growth in our innovation ecosystem.”


With funding from NSF over five years, the hub will provide entrepreneurial training, mentoring and resources to enable researchers to form startup companies that translate laboratory discoveries into breakthrough products and services.

The hub will employ the NSF I-Corps entrepreneurship training approach, which focuses on understanding the needs of potential customers, first-hand exploration of industrial processes and practices, and confronting the challenges of creating successful ventures based on scientific discoveries.


Located in the heart of the U.S. northeast, the new hub will make use of its proximity to “deeptech industries” that revolve around fundamental discoveries in areas such as healthcare and pharmaceuticals, energy, the environment, earth- and water-friendly “green and blue” technologies, financial technologies, agriculture, communications and digital information.

The hub will build on the robust industrial and government relationships of its academic institutions to develop a network of cross-sector partnerships that will leverage the investment of federal research dollars in the region’s universities.

Princeton and the partner and affiliate universities are home to numerous industry-funded research centers and entrepreneurial business accelerators and incubators. Three of the hub universities (Rutgers, University of Delaware and NJIT) were funded previously by NSF as ICorps sites providing training to hundreds of teams of entrepreneurs.


Through a demonstrated commitment to inclusivity and diversity, the hub will contribute to America’s future prosperity and global competitiveness by training the next generation of innovators from all backgrounds.

Activities that promote diversity include building a mentor network of successful and diverse individuals throughout the startup lifecycle, ensuring that hub instructors and mentors reflect the diversity of the region, and enhancing efforts to recruit participants belonging to groups historically underrepresented in entrepreneurship.

Affiliate institution and HBCU Delaware State University will co-lead the hub’s efforts to establish new partnerships with minority-serving institutions.


Rodney Priestley, Princeton University’s Vice Dean for Innovation and the Pomeroy and Betty Perry Smith Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, will be the co-director of the hub.

“The convergence of different disciplines combined with the diversity of participants will lead to unbound possibilities in U.S. innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Priestley, co-founder of several startups based on research developed in his laboratory at Princeton.

Julius Korley, director of entrepreneurship and strategic partnerships in the College of Engineering at the University of Delaware, will co-direct the hub. Korley is an experienced entrepreneur and nationally certified National Institutes of Health I-Corps program instructor.

Princeton and the two partner institutions, Rutgers University and the University of Delaware, will assemble entrepreneurial instructors for training programs, recruit mentors, and offer entrepreneurial programming for teams of scientists who apply to participate with the goal of transitioning a technology into the marketplace.

Faculty leadership at the principal and partner institutes will include:

  • Jannette Carey, associate professor of chemistry at Princeton
  • Dunbar Birnie, professor and the Corning/Saint Gobain/Malcolm G. McLaren Chair of Materials Science and Engineering at Rutgers
  • Daniel Freeman, associate professor of marketing and director of the Horn Program in Entrepreneurship at the University of Delaware
  • Jeffrey Robinson, an associate professor at Rutgers Business School and academic director of The Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development, will serve as the research lead for the hub.

As the lead institution, Princeton will provide overall governance of the hub under the guidance of Dean for Research Pablo Debenedetti, the Class of 1950 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science and a professor of chemical and biological engineering.


The affiliate universities, including inaugural members NJIT, Rowan University, Temple University, Lehigh University and Delaware State University will advertise opportunities for their researchers to form teams and attend trainings located at the lead and partner institutions.

Affiliate faculty leads:

  • Michael Ehrlich, associate professor of finance at the MT School of Management and director of the Leir Institute for Business, Technology and Society at the New Jersey Institute of Technology
  • Nidhal Bouaynaya, associate dean for research and graduate studies at Rowan University
  • Temple University’s faculty lead is to be determined.
  • John Coulter, professor of mechanical engineering, senior associate dean for research for the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, and faculty lead for the ICorps hub at Lehigh University
  • Michael Casson, dean of the College of Business, director of the University Center for Economic Development and International Trade, and director of the Economic Development and Leadership Institute at Delaware State University.

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