What is I-Corps?

I-Corps Program Overview

The National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) is a federally funded program to help prepare scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the university laboratory, and accelerates the economic and societal benefits of basic-research projects that are ready to move toward commercialization. Through I-Corps, NSF grantees learn to identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from academic research, and gain skills in entrepreneurship through training in customer discovery and guidance from established entrepreneurs.

How is NSF I-Corps structured?

The program connects academic researchers with the technological, entrepreneurial, and business communities through the work of I-Corps Teams, I-Corps Sites and I-Corps Nodes, which combined make up the National Innovation Network.  I-Corps Nodes are designed to support regional education, infrastructure and research around innovation. The Nodes deliver an innovation-enhancing training program based on the curriculum used to support NSF I-Corps Teams. They develop near-term tools and resources that will impact and expand the benefits of the entire I-Corps program across the Nation. They also identify and pursue longer-term research and development projects that advance the goals of the I-Corps program. The I-Corps Nodes work together and with I-Corps™ Sites to build, draw upon and sustain a national innovation ecosystem that further enhances the creation of technologies that benefit society.

What is the base methodology of I-Corps?

I-Corps is based on the Lean Launchpad (LLP) Methodology, which is basically the scientific method for identifying a business opportunity for a product, service or innovation. LLP enables the systematic identification of knowledge gaps in order to understand the most appropriate path forward for their concept. Built around the concept of Customer Discovery, LLP helps match the value proposition of a product, service or innovation with a customer segment that pay for the value being provided.

Who is eligible for the UNCG + NCAT’s I-Corps Program?

The UNCG + NCAT I-Corps Program is open to current UNCG and NCAT Undergraduate and Graduate students, Faculty, Staff and recent alumni. Ideally, teams will be complete with at least 3 members – student Entrepreneur Lead (EL), faculty Primary Investigator (PI) and Mentor. If individuals are unable to form a complete team, they are still encouraged to apply as we will be able to assist in developing a completed team.

What are the benefits of I-Corps?

  • Seed Funding, mini-grant $2k-$5k
  • SBIR/STTR - “60% increased chance of obtaining SBIR/STTR funding”
  • ID Industry Partners for Funding/Sponsorship
  • ID Best Application of your Research
  • Greater Understanding of how Innovation can Impact Society
  • Designated as NSF-Funded Project, Gain NSF Lineage
  • Nationally Recognized & Certified Program & Network
  • Guidance from Established Entrepreneurs
  • Assistance with IP
  • Savings in Time and Money through Accelerated Understanding
  • Enhanced Entrepreneurial Mindset
  • Greater Self-Confidence, and Better Presentation/Interpersonal skills, in a Business Setting
  • Broadened Professional Network

UNCG & NCAT I-Corps Program Overview

How are UNCG & NCAT Involved in I-Corps?

In 2016, a team from UNCG’s JSNN successfully completed a National Level NSF I-Corps program. Thereafter, it was decided that the Greensboro region could benefit from the LLP methodology and NSF I-Corps program to enable university innovators, nurture the local innovation ecosystem, and contribute to the grander national innovation ecosystem.  In February 2017, in collaboration with NCAT, UNCG’s Office of Research & Engagement submitted an application to become an NSF I-Corps Site.  Through a competitive evaluation process, in August 2017, UNCG + NCAT were awarded a 5-year, $500,000 grant to become established as an I-Corps Site. Along with UNCG + NCAT, *** were also selected in 2017, joining UNCC as the only other NSF I-Corps affiliated programs in NC.

What is the structure of UNCG + NCAT’s I-Corps Program?

The UNCG + NCAT I-Corps Program will feature the LLP Short-Course, encompassing multiple 4-5 week cohorts throughout the year, with a goal of training 30 teams each year on the LLP Methodology. Teams consist of at least a student Entrepreneur Lead (EL), faculty Primary Investigator (PI) and Mentor. These teams will be in cohorts of 5-10 teams, receiving “mini-grants” up to $10,000 to fund their customer discovery process, prototyping, and other seed expenses the team. Teams will be expected to complete 20-30 customer discovery interviews throughout the cohort timeline, with a goal of developing a clear direction in which to take their innovation upon completion.

 

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