“Insight to Innovation: Processes and Impacts” 2017 Grant Solicitation

The IC² Institute announces a grant solicitation supporting research by UT Austin faculty around innovation and entrepreneurship. The submission deadline is February 15, 2017.

The “Insight to Innovation” grant solicitation provides funds supporting research collaborations to tenured and tenure-track faculty at The University of Texas at Austin to accelerate research around innovation and entrepreneurship as they relate to fields including, but not limited to: science and engineering, economics, business, arts and culture, and social sciences. The IC² Institute of The University of Texas at Austin anticipates funding 6-8 “Insight to Innovation” research projects of ~$25,000 in an ongoing effort to stimulate research by faculty across all disciplines at UT Austin focused on key topics of interest to the IC² Institute.

Application process: Applications must be submitted on-line via CompetitionSpace ( by 5:00p.m., Wednesday, February 15, 2017. Awards will be announced April 11, 2017. The CompetitionSpace portal will provide a download mechanism for the grant proposal, to be assembled in a single PDF document. Send questions to Coral Franke (

Eligibility: Only tenured and tenure-track faculty at The University of Texas at Austin may apply. Proposals that include IC² Institute research scientists as collaborators or engage IC² Institute projects or research priorities will be given priority. Download Grant Solicitation for more information.

Funds can be used for:

  1. Collaborative research conducted by UT Austin faculty
  2. Recruitment and support of students or post-doctoral researchers
  3. Data collection, supplies, research materials, and other related miscellaneous expenditures as they pertain to the research being performed
  4. Travel to relevant conferences for original research presentation
  5. Faculty salary requests can only comprise 50% of requested funds.

Reporting requirements: An interim (one-page) report will be due by September 15, 2017, and a final report (2 pages) will be due April 11, 2018. Each report should include a brief description of what was accomplished to date; a listing of papers submitted/published; relevant presentations; and proposals submitted or funded as a result of the funding received.

Review process: Applications will be evaluated by a committee of staff researchers and faculty.


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FASTForward 2016 pitches delivered at City Hall

The IC² Institute’s inaugural FASTForward small business entrepreneurship course wrapped up on November 30 with pitches delivered in Austin City Council chambers.

Presentations were made by mmmpanadas, Pro Lawn Cut, BASSBOSS, Crudo Terre, ReRoute Music Group, Austin EcoNetwork, Austin Art Services, Li’l Mama’s, It’s Cleaning Time, Concept 2 Conception, and Treasured Earth Foods.

Watch the presentations here.

FASTForward video

FASTForward is an intensive 12-week program designed to help small Austin business owners grow their revenues by leveraging innovation, creativity and capital to create a unique differential from their competition. It was developed by the IC² Institute together with the City of Austin Economic Development Department.

For information about future editions of FASTForward, please subscribe to the IC² mailing list.

FASTForward at City Hall Nov. 30 2016

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IC² Director Greg Pogue on what makes a good pitch

The IEEE Professional Communication Society asked IC²’s Greg Pogue to talk about lessons from his research with UT Austin Professor of Rhetoric and Writing Clay Spinuzzi on how to make an effective Pitch. Pogue and Spinuzzi hosted a session and panel at ProComm 2016.

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BBR Director Kellison to serve as President of AUBER

Bruce KellisonBruce Kellison has been named president of the Association for University Business and Economic Research (AUBER) for 2016-2017.

AUBER is a national group of university-based research centers which focus on regional economic development.

The IC² Institute’s Bureau of Business Research is a longstanding AUBER member and hosted its annual meeting in Austin in 2009. Kellison says he will work in the coming year on strengthening the benefits that members receive from the organization through publications and webinars on topics related to regional economic competitiveness, and he hopes to expand the number of member centers, especially in Texas.

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Austin Energy inspects power lines using drones and imaging tech from India

On October 6, Austin Energy tested a novel solution for inspecting power transmission lines from the air using drones and breakthrough imaging software from India. The software was provided by Arcturus Business Solutions, a participant in IC²’s India Innovation Growth Program (IIGP), which helps new technologies from India find applications around the world.

Arcturus’ pattern recognition algorithms compare images of new transmission equipment with images taken by drone to detect damaged tower components, hot spots and coronas, and even to measure line sag. Using the software also requires skilled drone pilots who are able to successfully navigate electromagnetic fields from transmission lines that can cause the drones to lose their GPS orientation.

If the test is successful, utilities have the potential to lower costs and improve the safety, speed and precision of inspections. Current inspection techniques require physical access by lineworkers or costly flyovers by helicopter.

Program Manager Jim Vance of IC²’s Global Commercialization Group has served as a mentor to Arcturus in developing its US business and helped arrange the test with Austin Energy. Arcturus and CEO Swati Tiwari competed through the India Innovation Growth Program for the opportunity to work with IC².

The IIGP program is funded by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, the Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology (DST), and the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF). Its cumulative impact for the Indian economy through 2015 was $814 million according to an independent report produced by Ernst & Young. The IC² Institute has partnered with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) to deliver this and previous programs.

KXAN: Austin Energy using drones to inspect transmission lines

KVUE: Austin Energy testing out drones that could inspect damaged power lines

Fox 7: Drones inspect power lines

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Nirankar Saxena named IC² Institute Fellow

The IC² Institute is pleased to announce the newest IC² Fellow, Nirankar Saxena. IC² recognizes his significant contribution in fostering Indo-US collaboration in science, technology and innovation.

Nirankar Saxena is a Senior Director of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). FICCI is India’s largest and oldest apex business organization, representing over 250,000 companies and providing a platform for consensus building within industry sectors and among industry, government and society. Saxena heads FICCI’s Centre for Innovation & Technology Commercialization / Science and Technology. For the past nine years, the Centre has recruited, assessed and commercialized innovative Indian technologies domestically and internationally. The Indian Innovation Growth Program (IIGP), a joint FICCI-IC² initiative sponsored by Lockheed Martin and India’s Department of Science and Technology, has achieved a cumulative economic impact of $814 million plus employment of 3422, according to a 2015 study completed by Ernst & Young.

Saxena led FICCI to become a founding partner of the Millennium Alliance. The Alliance addresses development challenges by leveraging Indian expertise and resources to scale innovative solutions developed in India that will benefit developing and underdeveloped populations across India and the world. Under FICCI’s and USAID’s leadership, the Alliance brings together stakeholders within India’s social innovation ecosystem to provide innovators with needed resources and services.

Saxena also founded:

  • Science & Technology Policy Advocacy and Research Group
  • Industry Innovation Cluster Initiative to explore appropriate measures of encouraging innovation-based entrepreneurship and competitiveness among Indian MSMEs.

Saxena is a co-chair or member of the following Government of India or United Nations committees:

  • Co-Chair of United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction
  • C V Raman International Fellowship for African Research Selection Committee
  • National Innovation Council Committee
  • Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Disaster Management Committee
  • National Science & Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board
  • National Committee for setting up Innovation Hubs in Science Centres & Organizations

Nirankar Saxena named IC² Fellow
Nirankar Saxena (right) receives certificate from Sid Burback of the IC² Institute.

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Opinion: Corporate tax reform – inevitable, at last!

Op-ed by IC² Fellow Moris Simson. This piece originally appeared in the September 23, 2016 Austin American-Statesman.

The U.S.A. has Apple, Ireland and the EU to thank for the new direction.

Two weeks ago a spat erupted between the U.S. and the EU about some $15 billion in back taxes that Apple supposedly owed Ireland. Some quickly called it an EU “tax grab”.

Analysts and pundits promptly dismissed it because they thought the EU’s “big-brother” regulation against Ireland’s own wishes to enforce it, along with America’s reluctance to agree to it, was doomed to fail. Well, what a difference a couple of weeks make!

Moris SimsonThat initial reluctance has already waned. Anticipating undesirable consequences, last week the U.S. Treasury issued new guidelines by closing the loophole that Apple – and others – could have used by claiming foreign tax credits for extra tax bills from other countries. “This action protects the U.S. tax base by ensuring that such credits are only available when corporations repatriate their foreign earnings” the new regulation said.

What that means, in essence, is that our own government finally recognized that allowing multinational companies to defer payments to the IRS by holding international profits offshore, until repatriated, was no longer in the national interest of the country. That loophole, if left unchecked, would have continued to erode our tax base while allowing other countries to clamp down on US multinationals’ elaborate tax avoidance schemes.

To be sure, the topic is a very complex one. Corporate tax reform has been greatly controversial in political circles and was stalled again last year, despite practical recommendations by experts including the Simpson-Bowles Commission, former Fed chief Paul Volcker, and the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Camp, to name a few, who were concerned about what well exceeds $2 trillion worth of untaxed profits.

Last week, the Harvard Business School (HBS) also came up with their 2016 Report on U.S. Competitiveness that framed corporate tax reform, and the need to move toward territorial tax-policy in handling the taxation of international income, as one of the most important ones for economic progress and shared prosperity. One more prodding?

Certainly, but perhaps not enough to get our confused political discourse to acknowledge that lowering the statutory 35% U.S. federal corporate tax rate is not the only change required. Why? Because after a myriad of tax credits, special deductions and exemptions are taken into account, virtually no company is burdened with the statutory rate.

Last time I checked, the estimates for the average effective tax-rate for U.S. corporations range from 12 to 27 %, depending on which source you take seriously. Furthermore, from a fiscal perspective, corporate tax levies as a % of GDP have declined from about 3% to almost half as much over the last decade. Simply put, lowering corporate taxes without eliminating all the loopholes is neither fair to all other taxpayers nor the magic panacea for job creation a few economists propose. On the latter, the evidence is rather contrary.

There is something more profound here that went unnoticed though: The U.S. stands alone among all other prosperous G7 nations to still espouse a corporate tax regime wide-open to aggressive international tax-avoidance. The principle of international profits staying untaxed until they are repatriated is at the core of the transatlantic disagreement.

As to the Apple/Ireland controversy, the EU rightfully stands clear that no member states will be allowed to offer preferential treatment to particular firms, such that they can shrink their tax liability unfairly at the expense of other member states. In the case of Apple, its effective tax rate in the EU fell below 1% (versus an effective tax rate of 26% in the US), thanks to the fiscal generosity of Irish politicians to let Apple get away with huge tax deferrals. The real question is: at whose expense was such magnanimity at play?

Clearly at the expense of other EU member states, most notably Germany and France. There is another and simpler way to frame the issue by probing along three dimensions.
Ireland and Greece stand alone in the EU for still practicing an American-style worldwide (vs. territorial) taxation policy for multinationals. Why? Because the promise of lower (i.e. under-collected) tax revenues helps them attract foreign investments and create jobs.

But weren’t Ireland and Greece the two most prominent fiscal “basket cases” which needed massive and acrimonious EU bailouts in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. And, furthermore, they aren’t out of the woods yet.

So, why haven’t these foreign investors and the freshly created new jobs come to the rescue of these fiscally-starved countries? Because — and therein lies the rub — the promise of lower taxes is only a temporary attraction and not the durable solution for creating a growing, prosperous and sustainable economy. On September 6th the governor of Ireland’s central bank sternly warned that the country was “especially exposed” to “international shocks”.

At the end of it, each country has to find the right balance between wealth generation and its taxation within its unique government budgetary needs. There is no accounting magic, no tax gimmicks there. Just plain, hard work which needs to be guided by a well thought-out, country-specific, economic policy in the creation and sharing of national prosperity.

Thanks to the Apple/Ireland/EU controversy our Treasury department made a reasonable and inevitable move: the loophole with international tax credits is now closed. This now sets the scene with heightened urgency for corporate tax reform, along with associated taxation policies for the incomes of individuals and small companies. Something that the new administration will have to undertake promptly in early 2017.

Moris Simson, a renowned former technology executive, has been an IC² Fellow since 2006.

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Austin Technology Incubator to host Solar Data Reverse Hackathon with NREL and Zpryme

The U.S. Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Energy Thought Summit (ETS), and the IC² Institute’s Austin Technology Incubator (ATI) are partnering to develop and host the first-ever Solar Data Reverse Hackathon in Austin, Texas.

Kathleen BaireutherKathleen Baireuther, Assistant Director of ATI’s Clean Energy Incubator, designed the reverse hackathon for her final project in NREL’s Executive Energy Leadership Program. Baireuther was one of 22 professionals selected to participate in a four-month program that offers executive decision-makers from throughout the U.S. an in-depth opportunity to learn from NREL’s most prominent scientists, engineers and professionals, tour research facilities, and visit local renewable energy installations.

“The datasets, algorithms, and visualization capabilities at NREL stood out as an exceptional opportunity for ATI to engage Austin’s broader entrepreneurial and coding communities in cleantech innovation,” said Baireuther. “Our goal is to stimulate and support innovation that will attract funding in the private capital markets. The reverse pitch process is critical because you begin with real industry problems where significant dollars could be deployed against solutions, then support entrepreneurs to develop a product that can become a successful business.”

The reverse hackathon process engages industry in meaningful conversations about where innovation is required and educates the coding and entrepreneurial communities about business opportunities in energy. It also connects innovators with valuable resources for building a successful product and business, such as publicly available datasets, industry expertise, and other community resources.

“NREL hopes to partner with the robust community of energy and technology professionals in Austin to solve real world solar challenges,” said Johanna Levene, Manager of Web and Data Technologies at NREL. “Our goal is to ensure that the data and algorithms provided by NREL can help entrepreneurs by providing a reliable source of credible energy information.”

The program will begin with researching and interviewing energy industry stakeholders to identify problems related to solar development and deployment. The research will be followed by several educational webinars taking place in November, December, and January and will culminate in a hackathon in March. Coding teams will pitch their solutions at ETS17 on March 27-30 of 2017 in Austin, Texas. The ETS17 partnership is an important layer to this program because it dramatically increases the visibility of solutions developed through the hackathon and positions them to grow into companies after the event itself.

Zpryme, an Austin-based research, media, and events agency that owns and produces the Energy Thought Summit (ETS) will showcase the real-world applications developed from the reverse hackathon to major utilities and technology providers at ETS17.

“Zpryme is excited to be working with NREL and ATI to increase collaboration among the coding community, solar community, and the broader energy industry,” said Jason Rodriguez, CEO and co-founder of Zpryme. “The reverse hackathon aligns with our goal to make ETS the nerve-center for both thought leadership and innovative partnerships for the energy industry.”

The first iteration of this event will focus on solar data through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Initiative’s Solar Data Ambassadors program. NREL and the DOE hope to use Austin as their first test using the regional reverse hackathon methodology. If the process proves successful, NREL and the DOE hope to replicate it across other regions while continuing to engage in the Austin community with ongoing energy data ventures.

The Solar Data Reverse Hackathon is actively seeing industry partners and sponsors, coding academies, and programmers to promote the event and engage their respective constituencies in this unique opportunity. Research partners, professional associations, and industry are also invited to contribute solar research and data sets.

About Zpryme and Energy Thought Summit (ETS)

Austin, Texas based Zpryme is a research, media, and events agency that primarily serves the energy sector. Based on the creative direction of our associates, Zpryme produces influential research, Energy Thought Summit (ETS), and premium branding experiences that challenge the status quo. Learn more here:

About Austin Technology Incubator (ATI)

The Austin Technology Incubator (ATI), the startup incubator of The University of Texas at Austin, is the longest-established venture incubator in the nation. ATI works with both university-derived and non-university-derived startups, preparing them to compete in the capital markets. ATI is among the most successful incubators in the nation. Over the past 7 years that the current team and model have been in place, roughly 90% of ATI companies have received investment, totaling almost $900 million dollars. (Over the same time period, ATI companies have accumulated total book value of $1.5-2 billion.) ATI alumni have contributed almost $1 billion and over 6,500 jobs to Central Texas; each public $1 invested in ATI has yielded $66 of economic activity.

ATI’s Energy & Cleantech program is also a national leader. ATI is a node in the DOE’s National Incubator Initiative for Clean Energy (NIICE), presently known as Incubatenergy. ATI also coordinates a network of clean energy and water incubators across the state of Texas, all of which are university-based. ATI’s Energy & Cleantech companies have raised more than $200 million in investor capital (including one IPO). These companies have generated more than $85 million in economic impact. The broader clean energy ecosystem in Austin represents a $2.5 Billion industry and 20,000 jobs. The cleantech community in the Austin region is highly engaged, entrepreneurial, and collaborative. Learn more here:

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First XLr8 AP cohort launches in Tirupati, India

The XLr8 Andhra Pradesh Technology Business Accelerator welcomed its first cohort today to a full house at its new facility in Tirupati, India.


XLr8 AP is an initiative of IC²’s Global Commercialization Group partnered with the Government of the State of Andhra Pradesh and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). It includes training, advanced capacity-building for innovators and entrepreneurs, incubation and acceleration of tech companies into the global marketplace, mobilization of venture capital, and access to the extensive global commercial development networks of IC² and FICCI. A GCG manager will reside in Tirupati for the first 17 to 36 months of the program.

33 companies were accepted to the program out of over 450 applicants.

XLr8 AP Managing Director Glenn Robinson said the day was marked by “lots of interesting technologies, and lively interaction with our inaugural cohort of innovators. Collaboration has already begun here in the Sunrise State!”

IC² Institute's Glenn Robinson at XLr8 AP opening session

XLr8 AP inaugural cohort

For more information:

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FASTForward program is underway

The first class in the FASTForward Program was held September 6, 2016, at the IC² Institute’s Global Classroom with great participation from traditional local entrepreneurs, mentors volunteering from the Austin business community, and UT students participating in Dr. Greg Pogue’s Entrepreneurial Writing Course (RHE 328), taught this fall in the College of Liberal Arts. Weekly classes, along with monthly social networking events, will be held through December 2016.

entrepreneur speaking at FASTForward

Want to hear about future FASTForward opportunities? Sign up for our mailing list to receive announcements.
The City of Austin Economic Development Department has joined with the IC² Institute to invest in the growth of Austin’s small businesses by offering the FASTForward Entrepreneur Training Program. FASTForward is an intensive 12-week program designed to help small Austin business owners grow their revenues by leveraging innovation, creativity and capital to create a unique differential from their competition.

FastForward students and entrepreneurs

The FASTForward Program offers entrepreneurs leading local businesses the tools, talent and time to strategically develop a plan to grow their market share, enter a new market or introduce a new product. One tool will be the Entrepreneurial Storyboard that communicates in both written and graphical form key business components. The Storyboard is built from direct market engagement, interviews and building value propositions through co-creation with their markets and partners.

Marco Bravo teaching

The talent will be provided through the actions of mentors who will engage FASTForward teams during monthly mentorship meetings. These social networking events will allow teams to practice communicating their value propositions, as they are “in development” phase. Mentors are requested to ask questions, provide feedback and introduce the teams to other members of the Austin community that will be critical to answering key Storyboard questions. Further, mentors are asked to assist teams with next steps – by helping craft applications for funding and introductions to partners and customers. Teams will benefit from the engagement from senior-level students from The University of Texas at Austin. Students can assist teams conduct interviews, perform secondary research into markets and process data into easily communicated value propositions.

FASTForward mentor and entrepreneurs

Finally, the FASTForward program provides business owners time to work ON their business, develop a strategy for next steps and develop a broader team who will help them execute their plan. FASTForward teams will work each Tuesday evening on practical methodologies and apply these during the week to conduct business experiments, process their data and communicate outcomes. Monthly meetings with mentors will expand their audience and improve the accuracy, clarity and effectiveness of their business value presentations. Teams will present their outcomes to community leaders providing loans, equity-based funds and partnership relationships. The goal of the program is that FASTForward teams will develop a market-driven strategy to grow their business and take the first steps toward realizing their new, expanded potential.

FASTForward session

A second FASTForward series is being scheduled for 2017. Sign up for our mailing list to receive announcements of future opportunities.

– Story and photos by Coral Franke

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