Regional program

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

Funding

  • 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.

Apply for a program

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