"I’m massively impressed with this program... We’ve accomplished more with our team in four hours than we’ve gotten through in conversations for the last two years. I can’t speak highly enough about the thought process and the structure of this program."
– Mary Poulton, Ph.D., Professor, Mining and Geological Engineering, I-Corps team member
National Science Foundation Innovation Corps, or "I-Corps," is a course that prepares scientists and engineers to increase the impact of research. TLA Leads I-Corps at the UArizona.
The NSF I-Corps Program exists to help jumpstart a national innovation ecosystem by teaching Lean Startup Methodology with a focus on customer discovery and the business model canvas. The program provides funding and guidance for teams to assess their technology’s commercial viability. Successful I-Corps projects are well-positioned to receive future NSF grants designed for slightly more mature technologies, including SBIR and STTR grants.
In participating in the site-level program, each team – consisting of an academic lead, an entrepreneurial lead and a principal investigator – becomes eligible to receive a grant of up to $3,000 to assist with customer discovery.
Our next cohort will be held from May 26 through June 30, 2021. Applications are due by May 14, 2021.
TLA requires teams have at least two active participants. Teams must have an Entrepreneurial Lead and at least one other team member.
- The Entrepreneurial Lead (EL) could be a postdoctoral scholar, graduate or undergraduate student, staff member, researcher, or other personnel with relevant knowledge of the technology and a deep commitment to investigate the commercial landscape surrounding the innovation. The Entrepreneurial Lead should also be capable of and have the will to support the transition of the technology, should the I-Corps Site Team project demonstrate the potential for commercial viability. The EL is responsible for presenting at each of the in-person I-Corps sessions.
- The Technical Lead (TL)/Principal Investigator (PI) sometimes referred to as the Academic Lead (AL) typically has deep and direct technical expertise in the actual core technology about which the I-Corps team is exploring commercial potential. Usually, the Technical Lead will also serve as the proposal Principal Investigator (PI) if the team applies for the National I-Corps program. TLA recommends that the team apply with a PI but we can assist in finding one if necessary.
- The Mentor has experience in business or is an entrepreneur with real-life expertise. TLA will match teams with Mentors.
Thank you to our I-Corps co-sponsors:
Participate as a Team
Are you a UArizona student, faculty or staff member with a great invention and want to test its commercial potential? Do you dream of starting a company to bring your idea to the public? If so, then the NSF I-Corps program is your best next step toward a successful start.
Why might I-Corps be right for you?
The I-Corps Site program provides:
- Six weekly class sessions to help your team focus on customer discovery, learn the “Lean Launch” startup method and polish your plans, knowledge and presentation skills.
- Experienced mentors and entrepreneurs to help you define and refine your strategies.
- Microgrants of up to $3,000 to help fund travel to meet and get to know your potential customers.
There are no intellectual property obligations tied to this grant.
Participate as a Mentor
Are you an accomplished businessperson looking for a new venture? Are you ready to give back to the entrepreneurial community? Are you ready to pass on the knowledge you've accumulated to another generation of innovators?
Why might I-Corps mentoring be right for you?
As we know, mentorship is crucial to success and we need mentors who’ve “been there, done that” and are able to share their experience with those who are following in their footsteps. If you've "been there, done that," we invite you to become mentors for our I-Corps teams and guide them on the path to commercialization, with an emphasis on customer discovery.
Each I-Corps Cohort consists of up to seven teams who participate in 6 instructional sessions, culminating in a final pitch event. Outside of the group sessions, teams and mentors meet to discuss strategies, interviewing techniques, business ideas and more. Some of our past mentors have even gone on to be part of the startup company!
Tech Launch Arizona hosts a mentor training session prior to the start of the cohorts, to give both new and experienced mentors and idea of what the program is and what is expected.
If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, please contact Site Program Manager Aileen Dingus at email@example.com to get things started.
Need help or answers regarding I-Corps at TLA? Let us know, we’re here to help.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1547749. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.