Success Story

NSF I-Corps Short Course to provide entrepreneurship training to researchers

Academic researchers interested in exploring the commercial potential of their technological innovations are invited to apply to a free National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (NSF I-Corps) Virtual Short Course to be held Oct. 8 through Nov. 6. Applications for the course are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 24. Up to five selected participants will receive entrepreneurship training and mentorship as they virtually “get out of the lab” and talk with customers to identify the best product-market fit for their research.

Teams that are accepted into the four-week I-Corps Virtual Short Course will receive a $3,000 travel/customer discovery grant from the Invent Penn State NSF I-Corps Site to continue their customer discovery. They also become eligible to apply for the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps National Teams Program, which includes a $50,000 grant.

 Fall 2021 Virtual Short Course Schedule 

  • Session 1 — Workshop: 4–7:30 p.m., Oct. 8
  • Session 2 — Workshop: 9 a.m.–noon, Oct. 9
  • Session 3 — Customer discovery check-in: Oct. 14, 1 hour
  • Session 4 — Customer discovery check-in: Oct. 21, 1 hour
  • Session 5 — Customer discover check-in: Oct. 28, 1 hour
  • Session 6 — Penn State entrepreneurial ecosystem: 4–7 p.m., Nov. 5
  • Session 7 — Team showcase: 9 a.m.–noon, Nov. 6

The course kicks off with two workshops on Friday, Oct. 8, and Saturday, Oct. 9. Teams will learn to test and develop business models with the Lean LaunchPad methodology and how to conduct effective customer discovery interviews to learn if there’s a market fit for their idea. Over the next three weeks, teams utilize resources like LinkedIn Premium (cost covered by NSF I-Corps grant) to talk to potential customers about their needs, with the goal of completing 30 customer discovery interviews.

Sessions 3, 4 and 5 take place during customer discovery weeks, with teams attending one-hour video check-ins to share progress updates and receive coaching from the course instructors. The short course ends with Sessions 6 and 7, where teams present their findings, receive additional coaching, and learn about next steps with NSF I-Corps and the Penn State entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Applicants are expected to be available for all sessions via Zoom.


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 looking for $3,000 in grant funding to meet with 30 prospective customers (virtually) and explore modest prototyping of their idea.
  • May want to apply for the NSF I-Corps National Teams Program and accompanying $50,000 grant.
  • Wish to have NSF lineage conferred on their research lines and to become eligible for other NSF entrepreneurship-related grants.

About Penn State’s NSF I-Corps Site 

Penn State’s NSF I-Corps Site was initiated in 2017 and to date has delivered more than 20 customer discovery boot camps and graduated more than 95 startup teams from site programs.

The NSF I-Corps Short Course at Penn State is hosted by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research, the Office of Entrepreneurship and Commercialization, Invent Penn State, and the Penn State NSF I-Corps Site.