NSF I-Corps Bay Area Node on The Hill

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Bears were in the House for Coalition for National Science Funding Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. last week! Rhonda Shrader (Executive Director of NSF I-Corps Bay Area Node & Berkeley-Haas Entrepreneurship) and John Felts, co-founder of Cruz Foam (National I-Corps team & LAUNCH standout) were part of a coalition that included representatives from five UC campuses highlighting NSF-funded “return-on-investment” projects.

They spent the day meeting with congressional leaders and staff, urging support for robust funding for the National Science Foundation. As part of their advocacy, the pair, along with Michelle Moskowitz (UC Berkeley’s Government & Community Relations Office), shared the story of how modest NSF funding for I-Corps training has generated powerful returns across UC Berkeley, UCSF and the larger ecosystem.  The trio also participated in an exhibition reception on Capitol Hill and co-hosted the DC Cal Supper Club.

Cruz Foam showcased a compostable replacement for styrofoam packaging made from a polymer found in shrimp shells, the second most abundant organic material on the planet next to cellulose.  Before NSF I-Corps & LAUNCH training, he had planned to create surfboards.  Once in the programs, “I started conducting customer interviews and quickly discovered that the market wasn’t large enough. I found that the real pain point and infinitely larger market opportunity was in packaging–regulation against single use plastics is driving changes all along the supply chain.”

Pictured at top: Rhonda Shrader and John Felts with Congressman Eric Swalwell.
Photo: Michelle Moskowitz