I-Corps Program Information

NSF I-Corps is a public-private partnership program that teaches university and community entrepreneurs with a targeted Lean Launchpad curriculum to identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from academic research and the innovation ecosystems surrounding our university communities. 

The Invent Penn State I-Corps Site provides mini-grants, commercialization training and mentorship for up to 30 potential startup teams per year. The commercialization training sessions, offered through a number of boot camp programs, help inventors begin customer discovery, learn about the commercialization process, network with experienced entrepreneurs, and determine if a market exists for their innovation. 

Invent Penn State I-Corps Site boot camps were piloted at Penn State University Park and Penn State Altoona in 2017/18, however, the boot camps have now spread across the Commonwealth.  

Selected teams will:  

  • Receive a I-Corps Mini-Grant of up to $3,000, which can be used to attend industry trade shows, visit potential customers, and cover virtual customer discovery expenses including LinkedIn Premium and Zoom Pro
  • Have the opportunity to work with a dedicated mentor who meets with the team to provide business expertise, advice on pitch development, funding strategies, and help grow a network of contacts 
  • Perform 30 structured customer interviews to gain insights into the market for the team’s innovation 
  • Have opportunities to showcase their new venture at the annual Invent Penn State Venture & IP Conference
  • 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

What constitutes an I-Corps team?

A team often consists of the following three individuals, though some flexibility exists: 

    1. The Academic Lead – Typically a Penn State faculty or staff member. This person will serve as the Principle Investigator (PI) for the project.
    2. The Entrepreneurial Lead A student, faculty or staff member, recent alumni, or community member. This person will often be the one who takes the lead on conducting customer discovery through scheduling interviews and meeting with potential users or customers.
    3. The Business Mentor (Industry Mentor) Someone able to provide an experienced entrepreneurial perspective for the other members of the team. Those applying for an I-Corps Mini-Grant can bring their own Business Mentor (if they are already working with someone or know someone who they feel will be a good fit) or the Invent Penn State I-Corps Site team can locate a Business Mentor from our network of contacts.