Program details

About the Propelus I-Corps regional 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.

The Propelus I-Corps program consists of 4 sessions 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).

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: 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, networking with peers.
    • Finding potential licensees for your technologies.

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.
  • Mentor
    • 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. 

Selection process

  1. Applications will be reviewed by the I-Corps Hub Review Committee.
  2. Selections are based on project potential and team commitment.
  3. Teams who pass the initial review will be invited to an interview (online) with the Review Committee.
  4. Selected teams will then participate in the 4-session training program (online).

Selection criteria


  • 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.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Apply for a program

Find an upcoming program online or near you.

view upcoming programs 

Co-programming & events


Novus is a half-day program followed by self-paced coursework that introduces participants to I-Corps methodology for charting the path to startup or entrepreneurial venture.

Who is it for?

Researchers, scientists and engineers who have an idea, a technology, or curiosity are welcome to participate. Novus is open to individuals or teams of university researchers, regional tech entrepreneurs, and anyone interested in exploring the world of innovation. 

You will learn to:

  • Articulate your hypotheses about customer needs that your tech could address.
  • Understand who the users, payors, and decision makers are in your customer ecosystem.
  • Test your hypotheses via conversations with potential customers.

Attend to learn the basics of how to test your business idea and how to win a $3,000 grant from the Northeast I-Corps Hub.

Registration is free and open to individuals as well as teams.

Check our Events page for upcoming dates.

Info Sessions

We host regular info sessions to introduce researchers and tech entrepreneurs to the I-Corps program.

These sessions are online, and are hosted by alternating Faculty Leads at each of our Hub universities.

Attend an info session to learn more about I-Corps and how you can propel your science or technology toward a startup or venture for societal benefit.

Check our Events page for upcoming dates.

Hub Assembly

The NE I-Corps Hub Assembly is an opportunity for I-Corps alumni to reconnect with I-Corps friends and learn about additional opportunities.

Hub assemblies are open to current and past participants of the four-week Propelus I-Corps or the Novus I-Corps program, as well as I-Corps instructors and mentors.

This is your opportunity to:

  • Hear about what the NE I-Corps Hub has accomplished so far and plans for the rest of 2023!
  • Engage with various program leaders, funders, and investors in the Northeast Region who can offer exciting opportunities at various stages of development including National I-Corps
  • Identify Instructors and Pod Mentors that could potentially join your team as an Industry Mentor in National I-Corps
  • Network with other I-Corps teams from other institutions across the Northeast Region and share Customer Discovery stories from the field!
  • Celebrate the accomplishments you've achieved so far and look forward to a productive rest of the year!

Check our Events page for an upcoming date.

I-Corps Fellowship Program

The I-Corps Fellowship Program creates pathways for students, especially those from underrepresented groups, to participate in innovation and entrepreneurship activities at the Northeast I-Corps Hub. This program is open to all eligible participants, regardless of identity.

As an I-Corps Fellow, you may be called upon to join an existing team and participate in an upcoming Propelus program.

You will have the opportunity to observe and contribute to the team's I-Corps activities, including:

  • Preparing and conducting Customer Discovery interviews
  • Documenting interviews
  • Assisting with preparing and presenting the weekly worksheet assignments
  • Participating in Office Hours with the Teaching Team
  • Other activities suited to your interests, expertise and schedule.

*Note: As part of the Fellowship, you will not be expected to contribute to a team's laboratory research efforts.

To learn more and apply, please the website of our partner institution Rutgers University.

Learn more

Entrepreneurship Essentials

Entrepreneurship Essentials is a series of virtual workshops that highlight important topics surrounding early stage ventures.

Each webinar will feature an expert who volunteers to present a 30-minute talk followed by a 30-minute Q&A from the audience.

Entrepreneurship Essentials is open to current and past NSF I-Corps participants, as well as to deep tech entrepreneurs interested in joining future I-Corps regional programs.

Check our Events page for upcoming dates.

Innovating Together

The Innovating Together series is a public online event that features experts from regional entrepreneurship programs in conversation with I-Corps instructors and graduates to identify next steps opportunities for innovators in the Northeast region.

You will learn about available regional opportunities that when combined with I-Corps can connect you with the right training, network, funding, and mentorship to help bring your innovation closer to solving real-world problems, building proof-of-concept prototypes, and creating high tech-startups.

Past partners for Innovating Together events include IndieBio, HAX, Foundation Venture Capital Group, Activate, Merck Digital Sciences Studio, The Innovation Space and Cleantech Open Northeast.

These online events are free and open to the public. Whether you're far along in your commercialization journey or just starting out and wanting to learn more about innovation, all are welcome!

Check our Events page for upcoming dates.