National I-Corps Program

National I-Corps Program

About the Program

The National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) program aims to equip scientists and engineers with the skills necessary to expand their focus beyond the laboratory and accelerate the transition of cutting-edge research, funded by NSF, into successful commercial ventures. Through active engagement with customers, teams can validate the potential applications of their technology. The curriculum follows an immersive 7-week program specifically designed to avoid the common pitfall of building a product that lacks demand, which is a leading cause of startup failures.

Teams consisting of academic researchers, student entrepreneurs, and business mentors, engage with the curriculum through a combination of online instruction and on-site activities offered by the NSF I-Corps™. An essential aspect of the program involves teams conducting a minimum of fifteen customer interviews per week. Throughout the 7-week program, teams will have the opportunity to connect with more than 100 potential customers.

The National I-Corps teams consist of:

  • Technical lead – typically a faculty member who is the technology inventor and serves as principal investigator, or a postdoctoral researcher who has deep expertise in the core technology area to be evaluated for market potential.
  • Entrepreneurial lead – typically, a graduate student or postdoctoral researcher who leads a staff or faculty member.
  • Industry mentor – An Industry expert with business/entrepreneurial experience who is independent of the technology development and team.

Eligibility & Expectations

  • Technology Innovation: Applicants must have a technology development connection to an institution of higher education as well as submit their application from an institution of higher education.
  • Team Size: A team of 3 – 5 people consisting of a Technical lead, an Entrepreneurial lead, and an Industry mentor.
  • Time investment: All team members must attend all I-Corps sessions, including the kick-off and closing meetings, weekly web sessions, and office hours.
  • Mandatory team commitment:  Complete a minimum of 100 potential customer interviews during the seven-week training program. Follow the customer discovery process and other guidance given by the instructors. Commit to exploring the commercialization potential of their technology.
  • Applicants with an active NSF research award in the last five years in a relevant research area –– from any science or engineering field are eligible to apply to the National I-Corps program.
  • Researchers who have not received a research award from NSF may earn eligibility to the national I-Corps program by first participating in the Mason Regional I-Corps program and receiving a letter of recommendation following completion of the program.

Benefits of the Program

  • Gain a deep understanding of the value of your technology and its target users/stakeholders/ecosystem.
  • Receive a $50,000 grant from the NSF.
  • Identify untapped markets for your technology that may have been overlooked.
  • Gain a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and barriers involved in commercializing technology.
  • Expand your network by connecting with peers, instructors, mentors, investors, and customers with similar interests.
  • Benefit from an accelerated approach that saves valuable time, money, and other resources that could otherwise be wasted.
  • Receive support from NSF-Certified I-Corps instructors.
  • Increases your chance of obtaining additional funding (VIPC/SBIR/STTR/PFI and more).