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