On Tuesday, the National Science Foundation announced a three-year, $3.5 million grant to USC, California Institute of Technology and UCLA in order to foster collaboration between public and private institutions and promote technology innovation in the Southern California region.The NSF, an independent agency created by the federal government, has designated Southern California as its next “node” as part of its Innovation Corps (I-Corps) initiative. The Los Angeles area joins the five other I-Corps nodes in the San Francisco Bay, New York City, Washington, D.C., Georgia and Michigan, as well as a forthcoming node at the University of Texas in Austin.Andrea Belz, academic director of the Master of Science in Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at the Marshall School of Business and a Caltech alumna, will serve as director of the Southern California node.“We are thrilled to be part of NSF’s visionary I-Corps program. This award will strongly accelerate the growth of the study and practice of entrepreneurship and innovation management throughout our region,” she said in a statement to USC News.The goal of the I-Corps program is to encourage scientists and engineers to connect with business leaders on- and off-campus to bring their ideas to fruition. At USC, the I-Corps node will bring together Belz and Yannis C. Yortsos, who helped secure the grant and is dean of the Viterbi School of Engineering. They will work to educate entrepreneurs about potential business opportunities based on research done within universities and the I-Corps program.Working with leaders at Caltech and UCLA, USC hopes to strengthen Los Angeles’s position as a technological center for the country.“With the largest number of talented engineers graduating from Southern California institutions than from any other geographic region in the nation, the conditions are just ripe for this creative transformation for the benefit of the region and the nation overall,” Yortsos said in a statement to USC News.