University of Northern Iowa



UNI Innovators Workshop



Everybody knows that research and discovery are important! 

We can hardly imagine a world where the products we rely on every day (and processes used to make them) don’t exist.  

It is no coincidence that academic institutions like UNI* performed roughly 60% of federally funded basic research, 27% of federally funded applied research and 6% of federally funded experimental development.

But there is a catch, these funding agencies want a return on their investment or at the least, they want to see a pathway by which successful research can continue to evolve, ultimately meeting a market need. Unfortunately, too many scholars look only to acquire money for their research efforts and don’t know how to line up their work with the interests of funders.

This is where the UNI Innovators Workshop comes in. This initiative targets faculty and staff researchers, providing an overview of the commercialization process. 


UNI Innovators Program

Participants will learn the verbiage that appeals to grant/contract examiners and leads to greater funding successes. Additionally, attendees will discover ways in which they can monetize their research, providing future income for themselves and revenue for their department. 

We invite you to apply to be a part of our upcoming UNI Innovators Workshop and learn alongside your fellow UNI colleagues. For those who are looking to make an impact with your research, this workshop is a great place to start. The deadline for applications is September 7, 2022.

We look forward to seeing you this fall.  

Paul Kinghorn

Director | Intellectual Property Officer

Details about the UNI Innovators Workshop: Aleksandar Poleksic, Ph.D. Professor | Department of Computer Science

More details about the UNI Innovators Workshop...

  • An application is required, click the link above for access. It is brief and addresses the current/proposed research, stage it’s at, researchers involved, and how it might meet a possible market need.

  • Individuals can apply, but small teams (2-3 people) are encouraged including students involved in the research project.

  • Participation is limited to 10 individuals (4-6 teams).  BTW - Feel free to share this information with any colleague or graduate student you know that would have an interest.

  • There is no cost to participate in the program.  Rather, for those who successfully complete the workshop, the following financial stipend will apply:

    • For those that have completed an IP Disclosure Form with the IP/TT Office for the project they wish to take through the program,
      each faculty and staff participant will receive a $500 stipend, up to a limit of $1,500 per team.

    • Faculty, staff or grad students who haven't yet disclosed any IP, are still welcome to apply provided they have an idea to take through the program.
      This could be the genesis of a research project, but needs to be reasonably developed.
      As general research falls outside the normal activity of the IP/TT Office,
      these research focused participants will be paid $250 to participate up to a limit of $750 per team.

                * Successfully completing the program means no more than two absences, completing the pre-class work each week,
                  engaging in 30+ customer discovery interviews and presenting at least 3 of the 4 times you are scheduled.

  • A total of 20+ customer discovery interviews are required during the course of the workshop.

  • Some pre-work is required prior to the first class.



There will be pre-work required before the first class to introduce customer discovery and the Lean Launchpad concepts (a modest level of videos to watch and some easy reading). Each team will be given instructions on creating a presentation to share during the first session.

Before each weekly session, there will be videos to watch which introduce that week's principle(s). We will use these for a flipped classroom discussion of the concept introduced in the video(s) assigned for that week.  

The format for each weekly session will be to start the class with presentations and feedback from the instructors and workshop mentors, followed by the discussion of the information from the video(s). 


Bettina Fabos, Fortepan Iowa Team

There may be interactive and/or peer groups activities. Depending on the weekly topic, team members may be divided into other groups.

Office hours will be available during the week to work with the instructors or mentors as needed.

Q & A

I'm not sure that my research is far enough along to warrant my participation in the UNI Innovators Workshop. 
The Lean Launchpad methodology suggests that one first understands the market need and then creates a solution to solve the identified problem with a minimal viable product. However, researchers tend to want to understand and perfect the IP (research) with the belief that determining the market need only serves to bias their research findings. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and other federal funding agencies think that both should go hand in hand. Their belief is that research just for knowledge is expensive, limiting and often becomes stranded with no identifiable pathway to commercialization. That is the whole genesis for developing the I-Corps Workshop (for which the UNI Innovators Workshop is a part) - to get research better aligned with market needs.

Other than the prospect of commercializing my research / IP, what lasting benefit can I expect from participating in the Workshop?
Faculty at other institutions have seen increases in the competitiveness of grant proposals when submitting to federal agencies. This improves the probability of success that future research will be funded. 

Are project teams limited in size?  
- NO, but from past experience, the teams of 2-5 individuals are best.  There is a limit on how much stipend is available per team ($1,500 w/ IP Disclosure, $750 without a prior IP Disclosure).  For teams larger than 3, you will have to decide how you want to divide the money.  (The stipend only applies to UNI faculty, staff or graduate students.)

Can people not affiliated with UNI (faculty/staff/grad student) participate? 
They are welcome to be part of your team however they are not eligible to receive a stipend.

Can one participate as a single person team?  
YES.  However, it is still expected that there would be 20+ customer discovery interviews held over the course of the Workshop.  We will talk in more detail about customer discovery interviews AND who is the customer.  For the purposes of the Lean Launchpad methodology, a "customer" is defined as anybody who 1) purchases the end product/service, 2) influences the purchasing decision, 3) assists with the development or delivery of the product/service or 4) is material in a significant way to the execution of the business model.  The Workshop will offer more clarity on why we do it this way.

Let's WORK together!

319-273-IOWA (4692)