Innovating for Defense (I4D) Course

Innovating for Defense (I4D) Course

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Erik Sander
Director, UF Engineering Innovation Institute

Class Period
Monday Periods 3-4; Wednesday Period 4 – WERT 360


Departmentally Controlled and by Application Below Only

The UF Engineering Innovation Institute, in partnership with the US National Security Innovation Network, is offering a course that brings together multidisciplinary upper-division undergraduate and graduate students leveraging the most cutting-edge entrepreneurship education model to attack critical Department of Defense (DoD) and US Intelligence Community (IC) problems in real-time.

Innovating for Defense is a special section of Engineering Entrepreneurship (EGN4641/EGN6640; Monday Periods 3-4, Wednesday Period 4) that challenges student teams to engage with DoD sponsors and government contractors to fully understand a mission-critical problem through 50-100 stakeholder interviews over the semester. Student teams learn and use the Lean Startup methodology and the Mission Model Canvas to iteratively cut through the complexity of the problem, craft a business model and solution to meet the DoD/IC Mission Need, and develop a prototype.

The course will be intense, and students should be prepared to dedicate a minimum of 10-15 hours weekly outside of class time.

This national program is sponsored by the DoD and was originally developed at Stanford University. To date, over 2,000 students from 55 universities have evaluated 450 DoD / IC real-time problems. Sponsors report that over half the student team solutions are impactful or implemented in some fashion (see Success Stories), including 53 startup companies resulting from projects.

A student does not have to be a US citizen, and DoD problems are not Classified. No previous knowledge of the DoD structure is necessary, as this will be a key element of the student learning in this course.

For fall 2023, teams comprising 4-5 students will work on curated projects, each with a DoD project champion and manager with the students who will regularly engage.

Details on specific projects will be provided on this site as soon as possible.

Student learning will include the following:

  • Learn and exercise the most cutting-edge entrepreneurship model (Lean Launchpad / iCorps) championed by Silicon Valley, Stanford University, NSF, DoD, and many others.
  • Attack DoD/IC-defined, mission-critical problems in securing our nation’s defense today.
  • Develop interaction and presentation skills with DoD/IC and civilian defense contractor decision-makers through weekly interviews of key stakeholders at multiple tiers in the command chain.
  • Formally present critical workflow and outcomes weekly, culminating in a final presentation of the student journey and proposed solutions to an audience of DoD/IC and other stakeholders.

Registration for this section is Departmentally Controlled as the DoD problems for the fall 2023 student team projects are being collected. We hope this will be completed early in the summer semester, at which time this site will be updated with the project descriptions and an application link. Interested students should check back regularly. When the site is updated, apply as soon as possible, as a maximum of 20 students (undergraduate and graduate combined) will be accepted for fall 2023.

Students can email the course instructor Professor Sander at with a copy to Ms. Lori DeLuco at with any questions.