The primary goal of NSF I-Corps is to foster entrepreneurship that will lead to the commercialization of technology that has been supported previously by NSF-funded research.
For entry into the I-Corp program, you must first participate in our 4-week UI Venture School: Faculty Innovators.
PI Eligibility for I-Corp program
Must have an active NSF award or one that has been active within the previous five years.
Award Size and Duration
$50,000 (F&A limited to $5,000) for six months.
I-Corps Teams are composed of three main members:
- Entrepreneurial lead (EL)
All three members of the team participate fully in the I-Corps Curriculum.
- PI - serves as the technical lead and project manager.
- EL - typically a postdoctoral researcher, graduate student, or other student, possesses relevant technical knowledge.
- Has and a deep commitment to investigate the commercial landscape surrounding the innovation.
- Is prepared to support the transition of the technology, to a venture.
- Mentor - brings entrepreneurial experience and serves as the principal guide in determining the technology disposition.
(Classes are call Cohorts)
3 days: introductory workshop (location TBA).
5 afternoons ( 1-4 p.m. Eastern): web-based discussions.
2 days: lessons learned (location TBA).
- Team background and history
- Project plan
- Lineage of the proposed innovation
- Product/service concept and demo
- Potential commercial impact
Submission and Review Process
- Submission through NSF FastLane and Grants.gov after written invitation from Cognizant Program Officer
- RAPID internal review mechanism
- 45 days from submission to decision
Additional I-Corps review criteria:
- Potential market impact
- Time horizon to impact
- New start-up businesses
- SBIR proposals
- Business model description suitable for review by third-party investors
- Students with entrepreneurial skills
- New or enhanced curricula
Lessons Learned From I-Corps Participants
This summary of lessons learned is based on feedback from early I-Corps Team cohorts:
- The team makeup is an essential element of success.
- In successful projects the PI and entrepreneurial lead worked as a team together with shared responsibilities.
- Projects that failed had the PI as the "boss" and the entrepreneurial lead as the "gopher."
- Teams that come in with a "point of view" on where the technology developed from the research can be deployed make more progress (platform technologies looking for applications make less progress).
- Successful Mentors become masters of the customer development and business model canvas approach and keep the teams "on the path."
- Effective mentors look for and address deviations or issues as they arise, calling on the instructors and NSF as needed.
- If the team does not have the time to fully engage the process, the experience is difficult.