Success Story

Calling Researchers: Join Penn State’s NSF I-Corps April Cohort

UNIVERSITY PARK –  Penn State’s NSF I-Corps Short Course is accepting applications for its virtual April cohort. The no-cost program helps researchers test a startup idea through customer interviews and educational programming on the lean startup methodology.   

The Penn State-hosted cohort will begin on Friday, April 19 and runs through Friday, May 3. The cohort will meet virtually once a week during the month span. Teams must commit to conducting a significant number of customer interviews during the three weeks, and to completing asynchronous assignments. Participants should plan on spending 5-10 hours/week of their time on I-Corps during the short course duration. 

Participants must apply and complete a self-guided I-Corps prep mini-course by Friday, April 12.  

The NSF I-Corps program uses experiential education to help researchers gain valuable insight into entrepreneurship, starting a business, or industry requirements and challenges. Participants learn valuable skills in connecting with customers, asking the right questions, and how to find partners to help get startup ideas off the ground. Through I-Corps training, researchers can reduce the time it takes to translate a promising idea from the laboratory to the marketplace.    

The short course will expose participants to key stakeholders and funding resources in the entrepreneurship community, increase chances of receiving an SBIR/STTR award, and put participants in an excellent position to apply for the National I-Corps Program that provides $50,000 in funding to assist with customer discovery.    

Penn State chemical engineering doctoral candidate Arash Emdadi recently participated in the NSF I-Corps short course program to connect with and learn from potential customers. Emdadi and his lab mates are working to improve the hydrogen production method to make it more cost-effective and environmentally friendly with a novel electrolyzer. Emdadi recently completed the winter 2024 NSF I-Corps National Teams program. 

“The short course was awesome, it was my first experience in customer discovery,” Emdadi said. “The short course program taught me that you should not have bias and you should be flexible – change your idea based on the problems and needs of the customer. At the end of the day, you want to sell your technology to customers, so you need to be able to pivot and revise your idea to align with the needs of customers.”   

Read more about Emdadi’s I-Corps experience.  

Penn State teams are also welcome to apply to other regional short course offerings from the broader Mid-Atlantic region. Contact the Penn State NSF I-Corps Program Manager, Derek Gross, to find the best solution for your team.    

Learn more about NSF I-Corps at Penn State.    

About NSF I-Corps     

Penn State University is part of the NSF I-Corps Mid-Atlantic Hub, a network of universities, NSF-funded researchers, established entrepreneurs, local and regional entrepreneurial communities, and other federal agencies. Hubs work collaboratively to build and sustain a diverse and inclusive innovation ecosystem throughout the United States.