Innovation Lab gives students a place to create

By MARCIA ZIMMERMAN
For The News-Letter

The Social Innovation Lab (SIL) is an early-stage incubator that provides Hopkins students who are starting socially relevant projects or ventures with funding, mentors, and office and meeting space.

Started in 2010 as a student organization, the SIL was adopted by the Administration and now operates under the umbrella of Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures. They are now accepting applications for their 2015-2016 group of teams. Twelve teams each year make the cut.

SIL Director Darius Graham explained the details of the application process.

“Each team accepted into our program automatically gets $1,000 up front for their project and can request additional funding at the end of the program [in April],” Graham wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “Those discretionary funding decisions at the end of the year, and decisions as to which teams are accepted into the cohort, are made by staff.”

Graham said that what makes the SIL unique is its diverse offerings.

“SIL offers funding, office/meeting space, workshops, and mentoring. Of those, I think the mentoring and one-on-one support is most valuable,” Graham wrote. “Entrepreneurs and innovators face a multitude of challenges and roadblocks when trying to build a venture or solve a social issue, having insight and guidance from experienced entrepreneurs can help them make smart decisions that get them to their goals faster.”

When students apply to the program, they must have a thorough proposal or an existing social venture.

“Some of these students are working on technologies so they don’t directly interact with the community, instead they interact with scientists, doctors, etc. to get feedback on what they are creating,” Graham wrote. “Other teams, like Charm City Clinic, Access Hears and others, really do focus on local issues in Baltimore so they do interact by serving their target population.”

Most current teams are comprised of members from all areas of the Hopkins community. There is an even 50 percent split between undergraduate and graduate students. Graham named a few ventures with potential.

Access Hears provides low-cost hearing assistance through personal sound amplifiers to low-income seniors. ShapeU is a social network for fitness enthusiasts. ShapeU users can create small communities with people who share their fitness goals and get matched with a corresponding fitness trainer for a low cost. Aezon Health is a medical app that can diagnose a user with fifteen critical diseases and conditions through machine learning, monitoring user vital signs and running the user through a symptoms diagnostic process.

“One thing in common is that they all have incredible passion and brilliance, so our goal is to support and guide that by providing resources that help them build sustainable ventures,” Graham wrote.

In selecting applicants, the SIL is looking for passionate people with a drive for innovation and a sound business plan that can be applied to serious social problems. According to the website, applicants should be driven and altruistic people who are meticulous problem solvers ready to put significant effort into their projects. Anyone interested in the SIL and the application process can visit ventures.jhu.edu/sil-apply.

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