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.


NSF I - Corps


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.

The Team

I-Corps Teams are composed of three main members:

  • PI
  • Entrepreneurial lead (EL)
  • Mentor

All three members of the team participate fully in the I-Corps Curriculum.

The Roles

  • 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.

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The Schedule

(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).

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Proposal Content

  • 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 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

Expected outcomes

  • New start-up businesses
  • Licenses
  • 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.

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Helpful Videos and References