Berry College is one of four higher education institutions recently awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to evaluate the experiences and challenges faced by underrepresented tech entrepreneurs.

The total amount for this three-year NSF award is about $3.5 million and about one third of the award is dedicated to research. Berry joins researchers from Rutgers University, University of Michigan and Vanderbilt University.

The national initiative is an effort to increase the number of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM entrepreneurship. The NSF awarded the National GEM Consortium $3.5 million to develop national diversity and inclusion infrastructure for the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) Program.  

The NSF I-Corps program was established in 2011, and connects scientific research with the technological, entrepreneurial, and business communities to help create a stronger national ecosystem for innovation that couples scientific discovery with technology development and societal needs.

“The drivers of tech entrepreneurship have led to disparities in access, participation, and representation by marginalized communities of color. Our research will help to identify targeted solutions aimed at reducing this gap in favor of a more inclusive entrepreneurial landscape in tech,” said researcher and Berry College Assistant Professor of Management Information Systems Thema Monroe-White.

Only about 8% of “U.S. innovators” are members of U.S. minority groups (including Asians, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and others), and much of the scientific workforce lacks diversity.

“Knowing the value of innovation education and diversity of thought, it is critical that we find ways to promote wide scale participation in innovation programs,” said researcher Aileen Huang-Saad, University of Michigan assistant professor of biomedical engineering and engineering education. “This effort is the first of its kind and has the potential to significantly change the way in which we engage diverse audiences in innovation education.

Vanderbilt University Associate Professor of Diversity and STEM Education and Associate Professor of Medicine, Health, and Society Ebony McGee agreed.

“It is obvious that there is a direct relationship between STEM innovation and entrepreneurship, as STEM business owners are some of the most capable and influential leaders on the planet. STEM companies and educational institutions publicly acknowledge that diverse experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds are crucial to the development of new ideas,” McGee said. 

More information can be found at http://www.gemfellowship.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/I-Corps-Diversity-Program-Press-Release-NSF.pdf and https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/i-corps/