National Science Foundation I-Corps Site

The NSF awarded Invent Penn State I-Corps Site status and $500,000 in September 2017 to support entrepreneurship training and microgrants for university-related startups.

Participants may qualify for I-Corps national team and $50,000

Benefits of I-Corps

The Invent Penn State I-Corps Site will provide microgrants, commercialization training and mentorship for up to 30 startup teams per year. These “boot camp” style trainings help inventors begin customer discovery, learn about the commercialization process, network with experienced entrepreneurs and determine if a market exists for their innovation. The benefits are numerous.

Selected teams will:

  • Receive a microgrant of up to $3,000, which can be used to attend industry trade shows, visit potential customers, develop prototypes and cover customer discovery expenses
  • Have a dedicated mentor who meets with teams to provide business expertise, advise on pitch development and funding strategies, and help grow a network of contacts
  • Have priority opportunities to showcase their new venture at the Invent Penn State Venture & IP Conference on April 19 & 20, 2018
  • Become eligible to apply for an I-Corps National Teams $50,000 grant award. (This is an alternate National Teams eligibility path for PI’s who have not previously received NSF funding.)
  • Qualify for an increasing number of NSF grant awards that require NSF I-Corps training as a criteria for eligibility


  • Penn State faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students, staff and recent alumni are eligible to apply.
  • Eligible projects must be in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) discipline.
  • Teams should have three people:
    • An academic lead who will serve as Principal Investigator (PI)—typically a PSU faculty or staff member
    • An entrepreneurial lead—a student, faculty/staff, recent alumni or community member
    • A business mentor—to provide an experienced perspective to the team. Mentors will be assigned if needed.
  • Teams must attend workshops and cohort meetings. Please check program details for more information on the associate time commitment.
  • Teams must perform a minimum of 30 customer interviews by the end of the program.

How to Apply

Faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students, recent alumni and community members interested in exploring the commercial viability of their idea or innovation can apply to one of a number of established boot camps based on the lean startup and customer discovery methods endorsed by NSF I-Corps.

Ben Franklin TechCelerator. Located in Innovation Park, TechCelerator specializes in commercialization support for university research-derived technologies in complex, often regulated, markets.

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Happy Valley LaunchBox. Located on Allen Street in downtown State College, Happy Valley LaunchBox specializes in support for early-stage, scalable startups focused on emerging markets, digital innovations or novel business models.

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Altoona LaunchBox. Located in the heart of downtown Altoona, Altoona LaunchBox engages future business owners and local entrepreneurs to explore their start-up business ideas and get feedback on challenges they face. Also offers an 8 week training program for selected startups.

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These I-Corps programs are grounded in the same customer discovery-focused philosophy taught at the Penn State Clinical & Translational Research Institute’s Innovations Program, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.