The TIP Innovation Fellowship Program is an immersive, experiential learning opportunity for students to engage in technology commercialization and real-world entrepreneurship. The program pairs students with tech startups through UConn’s Technology Incubation Program (TIP) for mentored summer experiences.
Since its inception in 2012, the program has placed 189 students in 60 university-affiliated tech start-ups. This year’s cohort of 33 UConn students is a mix of undergraduates and graduate students from about 20 different majors in business, life sciences, health, and engineering.
Most students are Connecticut residents, and a quarter of them belong to traditionally underrepresented groups. Many participants are the first members of their family to attend university.
The strong participation in the program corresponds with the growing interest of students in entrepreneurship, as well as the expansion of UConn and the state and the emphasis on technological development, explains the director of the program. Caroline Deally.
“To move our global world forward, we have so many problems to solve,” Dealy said. “We need all kinds of people working together creatively. This program is a unique way to prepare students for the future. I hope this will grow the next generation of problem solvers and solution makers we need.
This year, 220 students applied to the program. UConn’s Technology Incubation Program (TIP) host startups offered 51 mentorship offers to fellows — a 117% increase since 2015 — but only 33 could be hosted due to limited funds.
“UConn has been extremely supportive of the program, but to keep pace with demand, corporate patrons and private donors will need to sponsor named scholarships,” said Dealy, who founded the program and is an assistant professor. at UConn Health.
“Our goal is to impact as many students as possible,” Dealy continued. “We could have over 50 students if we had the funding. Our growth is driven by the number of companies that recognize the value of hosting. For long-term sustainability, the program needs dedicated financial and administrative support that evolves with the needs of the program.
Unlike conventional internships, the TIP Innovation Fellowship Program is an academic entrepreneurship experience designed to provide hands-on experience of how innovative ideas and breakthrough technologies become the products and services that benefit health and society. the society. TIP is a technology commercialization services division of UConn.
Asirva Alahari, a member of Frequency Therapeutics – a Farmington TIP start-up – says that’s exactly what attracted her to the program.
“I wanted to get a feel for a real business,” said Alahari, a sophomore in the School of Engineering’s Manufacturing Engineering Management program. “I wanted to be able to be part of a company that makes an impact and explores new frontiers.”
Fellows have proven to be invaluable assets to the startups where they mentor.
“It’s an amazing program,” said Melissa Hill-Drzewi, Senior Quality Assurance Manager at Frequency Therapeutics and Alahari’s mentor. “It’s a great way for students to see what working in a start-up is like. It’s different from a corporate environment. We wear a lot of hats.
“They see the good, the bad and the ugly of being involved in a startup,” added Frank Kuchinski, co-founder of FootTraffic Stats, a TIP Digital company in Stamford that houses three fellows. “A lot of things we’re working on, we don’t even know the answers. Being able to work with ambiguity is such a valuable skill. A product is a series of unknowns. Some people are comfortable with it, others can’t handle it. We try new things every day.
The academic structure of the program includes entrepreneurship education through summer seminars and workshops that cover business development and strategy, patents, venture finance, and professional career development. Many fellows stay with host startups after the summer ends as part-time or full-time hires, or to extend their summer plans into longer-term academic honors, capstone work or academic research. TIP Fellows will share their summer projects at the UConn Summer Research Day on July 29.
“I’ve always been a STEM person, but I also knew I wanted to be involved in business,” Alahari said. “The TIP Fellows program has both, which draws on my background in engineering and technology, but you learn leadership skills and how to network.”
“The program seminars have been extremely interesting for me,” said Emma Graebner, a member of Oscillo, another TIP Farmington start-up. “TIP really promotes the business side of STEM education. It’s something I really didn’t expect, but I really appreciate.
Oscillo, a company focused on combining music and neuroscience to fight Alzheimer’s disease, was co-founded by Edward Large, professor of psychological sciences and physics at UConn and director of the Music Dynamics and Theoretical Neuroscience Laboratories. from UConn. Although not directly involved in product development, Graebner, a graduate student majoring in music and statistics, is able to lend her knowledge of music and statistics to support the company.
“Because I’m a music student, I can change things on the device, like how the light works with the beat,” she said. Her knowledge of statistics has helped her craft data presentations that are easily understood by non-experts. Other tasks range from taking notes at corporate meetings to maintaining an attendee recruitment website.
Hill-Drzewi said he interviewed five or six students from the pool of 220 applicants for the single spot at Frequency Therapeutics.
“I tried to choose the one that would best meet our needs,” she said of Alahari. “It’s a shame we didn’t have spaces for additional applicants, but I’m a one-man operation at Frequency and could only commit to one.”
Students will present posters and oral presentations about their experiences during the Summer Research Day festivities in the UConn Health Academic Rotunda in Farmington on Friday, July 29. The event runs from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.