Success Story

  • 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. Eligible teams receive up to $3,000 for customer discovery to advance their ideas.

NSF I-Corps Short Course @ Penn State to Provide Entrepreneurship Training for Researchers

Academic researchers interested in exploring the commercial potential of their technology innovations are invited to apply for a National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (I-Corps) short course to be held in State College on April 5-19, 2019. Applications are due by Friday, March 29 at 5pm EST.

Participants in this free, two-week course will receive entrepreneurship training and mentor support as they “get out of the lab” and talk with customers to identify the best product-market fit.

Faculty, staff, postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate student researchers may apply with a team of 1-3 people. Up to 10 teams will be selected. Applicants are expected to be available for all short course sessions.

Teams who successfully complete this I-Corps short course can receive a $3,000 travel grant from the Invent Penn State NSF I-Corps Site program to continue their customer discovery and also become eligible to apply for the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps Teams program, which includes a $50,000 grant.

How It Works:

  • The course begins with an in-person, Friday/Saturday kickoff workshop where teams learn how to use the Business Model Canvas, a hypothesis-testing methodology and customer discovery interviews to explore if there’s a viable market fit for their product idea.
  • Over a two week period, teams go out and talk to potential customers about their needs, with the goal of completing 30 interviews.
  • Each week, teams attend a 1-hour video check-in to share progress updates and get coaching from the instructors.
  • The short course ends with an in-person closing workshop where teams present their findings, get more coaching, and learn about next steps with NSF I-Corps and other Penn State entrepreneurship programs.

Who Should Apply?

Faculty, staff, postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate student researchers from any Penn State campus who:

  • Have a tech innovation in any STEM field and want to explore its commercialization potential.
  • Are willing to find & talk to 30 potential customers in two weeks.
  • Looking for $3000 in travel funds to meet with prospective customers.
  • May want to apply for the NSF I-Corps Teams national program and $50,000 grant.
  • Wish to have NSF lineage conferred on their research lines and to become eligible for other NSF entrepreneurship-related grants.
  • Have 1-3 team members who can participate in the Short Course dates, listed below:
    • Friday, April 5 (4pm – 8pm) – Session 1 (In-person)
    • Saturday, April 6 (8am – 12pm) – Session 2 (In-person)
    • Wednesday, April 10 (2pm – 3pm) – Session 3 (Online)
    • Wednesday, April 17 (2pm – 3pm) – Session 4 (Online)
    • Friday, April 19 (noon – 4pm) – Session 5 (In-person)


In-person sessions will be held at the Happy Valley LaunchBox powered by PNC Bank, 224 S. Allen Street in State College, PA.

The NSF I-Corps Short Course @ Penn State is hosted by the Office of the Vice President for Research, Invent Penn State and the Penn State NSF I-Corps Site.  The short course is being led by the Upstate New York I-Corps Node – one of eight NSF-funded Innovation Corps Nodes designed to support regional needs for innovation education, infrastructure and research. NSF I-Corps Nodes work cooperatively to build, utilize and sustain a national innovation ecosystem that further enhances the development of technologies, products and processes that benefit society.