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About the program
- In the I-Corps program, scientists and engineers take the first step in assessing if their research has the feasibility to become a product or service of benefit to society.
- Participants join the program in small teams organized around the development and commercialization of a particular discovery.
- Teams engage in customer discovery research aimed at investigating the commercial viability and societal impact of a novel discovery or process in science, technology or engineering.
- The program provides grants of up to $3,000 and training to support customer discovery and technology investigation.
- Each training program consists of 4 sessions (online) provided by instructors at our Hub institutions.
Who should apply
- Researchers and their colleagues who have developed a science or technology innovation at any university or college across the northeast are eligible to become entrepreneurial or technical leads.
- Non-university teams are also eligible if they have a "deep tech" (science or engineering) innovation.
- Teams can originate at any institution such as a university, college, medical school or hospital. Participants do not need to be from NSF I-Corps Northeast Hub member institutions. Our regional approach means we have a preference for teams who are based in the Northeast (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Connecticut).
Forming a team
The first step in applying to join I-Corps is to form a team. Teams consist of at least three roles:
- Entrepreneurial lead
- The entrepreneurial lead may be a graduate student, postdoctoral scholar, undergraduate student or staff member with relevant knowledge of the technology or market and a commitment to investigate the potential opportunity for commercialization.
- The role of the entrepreneurial lead is to drive the customer discovery process and support the transition of the technology into the marketplace if it demonstrates commercial viability.
- Additional researchers or leads are welcome.
- Technical lead
- The technical lead will often have been involved in creating the technology that forms the basis of the team’s business concept or possesses a high level of relevant technical expertise. The role of the technical lead is overall project management. The technical lead is often a faculty member and, if a company is formed, plays a key leadership role such as a scientific advisor or chief technical officer.
- The industry mentor will typically be an experienced entrepreneur, intrapreneur or corporate innovator who serves as a third-party resource.
- The role of the mentor is to guide the team forward and track progress.
- Teams do not have to identify an industry mentor prior to application, but are encouraged to do so.
- Mentors can also be suggested by Hub instructors when necessary.
What you'll get
- Training: Four sessions introducing the lean startup methodology and guiding teams through customer discovery research – customer, problem, solution and value proposition testing.
- Funding: Grants of up to $3,000 are given to each team and can be used to fund expenses related to customer discovery research, including solution-testing costs.
- Mentorship and networking: Funded teams will receive mentorship from seasoned entrepreneurs and innovators. Teams may also utilize many other programs offered by the Hub-affiliated institutions.
- Follow-on opportunities: Upon completion, teams are eligible for the national NSF I-Corps Teams program which provides an intensive 7-week training course and a $50,000 grant.
- Enhanced research outcomes: Other benefits include
- attracting more innovative graduate students to your lab (for faculty)
- finding a job in industry (for grad students), networking with peers
- finding potential licensees for your technologies
- many other potential beneficial outcomes.
- Applications will be reviewed by the I-Corps Hub Review Committee.
- Selections are based on project potential and team commitment.
- Teams who pass the initial review will be invited to an interview (online) with the Review Committee.
- Selected teams will then participate in the 4-session training program (online).
- The team structure should include a dedicated Entrepreneurial Lead and Technical lead who have relevant knowledge of the technology
- Teams should be able to articulate an initial, preliminary vision for the commercialization of the technology.
- Team members should have sufficient time to participate in the I-Corps training.
- Team members should understand their roles on the I-Corps team and express willingness to support the full cohort.
- The technology should be sufficiently developed or demonstrated to motivate the exploration of commercial potential.
- The team should be able to articulate a clear hypothesis on the problems in the market that the innovation could address.
- The team should be able to articulate a clear hypothesis on key market stakeholders.
- The team should be able to articulate a clear hypothesis on the value the innovation could offer those stakeholders.
- There should be sufficient questions remaining regarding the determination of product-market fit.
- The envisioned time to market should be sufficiently short to motivate the team's exploration of commercial potential and reflect the urgency of the team and project's prompt participation in I-Corps.
- The technology should be positioned such that a meaningful go / no-go decision can be envisioned at the end of the I-Corps training.
- Each team receives a $3,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant and can be used for fund expenses related to customer discovery research.
- The use of the grant funding awarded to Northeast I-Corps Hub teams is governed by the Acceptable Expenses Policy.