I-Corps™ is a National Science Foundation initiative to increase the economic impact of research it has funded.

The I-Corps™ program was created by the NSF in 2011 to help move academic research it has funded to market. Through a dynamic collaboration with VentureWell, the NSF offers select participants from US academic laboratories the opportunity to participate in a special, accelerated version of Stanford University’s Lean LaunchPad course. This revolutionary course engages participants in moving products out of the lab and into the market by talking to potential customers, partners and competitors and encountering the challenges and uncertainty of creating successful innovations.

954

I-Corps™ Teams Trained

156

$M Raised By Teams

361

Startups Founded

I-Corps™ delivers real-world, hands-on, immersive learning about the successful transfer of knowledge into products and processes.

It’s not about how to write a research paper, business plan, or NSF proposal. The end result is not a publication or a deck of slides or even a scientific discovery.

NSF I-Corps™ is a seven-week hands-on course designed to enable teams of scientists, engineers, and researchers to understand the potential value of their technology and inventions to society, by teaching participants how to assess the market opportunity for new technology and commercial potential. Teams of three complete the course and receive a $50,000 grant to determine the commercial potential of their innovation:

  • Is there a clear problem/need for the technology?
  • Who are our customers?
  • Are they willing to pay?  Willing to pay enough?
  • Is the solution better than the competition?
  • Is there commercial potential?

The I-Corps™ environment is fast-paced and rigorous; teams are pushed, challenged, and questioned in the hope that they will learn quickly whether or not their ideas are worth pursuing.

NSF I-Corps™ opens new doors in a number of ways, including:

  • Understand the process for determining market opportunity for new technology
  • Gain a perspective on the market/industry/customers
  • Enhance the probability of successful commercialization
  • Shorten the commercialization timeframe
  • Significantly increase the likelihood of SBIR/STTR funding
  • Grant funding for graduate student and prototype materials
  • Build relationship with NSF and future grant prospects
  • Learn about entrepreneurship and commercialization
  • Determine the commercial viability of your product/technology
  • Get access to technology licensing and funding opportunities
  • Practice your presentation skills and learn how to effectively communicate your innovations to many different types of customers
  • Develop an effective business model that can be shared with third-party investors

The entire I-Corps™ Team will be engaged with industry; talking to customers, partners, and competitors; and encountering the chaos and uncertainty of creating successful innovations. Getting out of the laboratory and beyond the university is what the effort is about.

The teams—composed of academic researchers, student entrepreneurs and business mentors—participate in the curriculum via online instruction and on-site activities through one of several I-Corps™ Nodes. Teams are expected to complete at least ten customer interviews a week, which means that over the seven-week course, teams will have contact with at least 100 potential customers.

Entrepreneurial Lead (EL)

The Entrepreneurial Lead (EL) is typically a postdoctoral researcher, graduate student, or other student. The EL possesses relevant technical knowledge and a deep commitment to investigate the commercial landscape surrounding the innovation. The EL should also be prepared to support the transition of the technology, should the I-Corps™ project demonstrate a level of readiness appropriate to leave the academic institution.

Principal Investigator (PI)

The Principal Investigator (PI) serves as the technical lead and project manager. To be eligible, the PI must have a currently active NSF award, or one that has been active within the past five years.

Industry Mentor (IM)

The Industry Mentor (IM) is typically an experienced entrepreneur or business executive. The IM guides teams forward, helping them interpret customer comments, assisting the team in contacting relevant people, and keeping the team honest about what they are hearing from the marketplace.