What is the I-Corps Program?
The NSF I-Corps Program exists to help jumpstart a national innovation ecosystem by teaching Lean Startup Methodology with a focus on customer discovery and the business model canvas. The program provides funding and guidance for teams to assess their technology’s commercial viability. Successful I-Corps projects are well positioned to receive future NSF grants designed for slightly more mature technologies, the SBIR and STTR grants.
What are the components of the NSF I-Corps Program?
The I-Corps Program is a “fabric” made of three critical components: I-Corps Teams, I-Corps Sites, I-Corps Nodes, and I-Corps Mentors.
I-Corps Teams are made up of university researchers, including faculty, students, and staff, and an entrepreneurial lead, with each team working on its own I-Corps Project.
I-Corps Sites, such as this, educate the I-Corps Teams and provide working spaces for the I-Corps Teams and Mentors.
I-Corps Nodes are regional offices responsible for recruiting the I-Corps Teams at I-Corps Sites and from NSF Fund Reports, as well as providing additional education to I-Corps Teams.
I-Corps Mentors mentor the teams, providing guidance specific to the problems and obstacles encountered by each individual team.
What is the I-Corps process?
Inventors from the UM and the extended UM community apply for an I-Corps Site award, and a team forms around each project. Each team is comprised of at least a Primary Investigator, an Entrepreneurial Lead, and a Mentor.
At the Site level, teams can be awarded up to $3,000 for customer discovery.
Teams that complete this program and receive their awards become eligible to compete at the national level for $50,000 I-Corps Team awards.
The curriculum is expanded upon in the National Teams phase further in the process during which they work to develop a business model. Once the teams have collected enough information, they make either a “Go” or “No-go” decision based on market research and their proposed business model. After a “Go” decision, the teams decide where to look for funding, such as applying for further NSF grants or courting private investment.
How Do I Know If My Research or Innovation Idea is Eligible?
If you are unsure about whether your idea is eligible we encourage you to simply apply. It will take you just a few minutes and will provide the I-Corps team with sufficient information to help determine if you are eligible. Even if you are not eligible the I-Corps team may be able to offer suggestions on additional steps you need to take to become eligible or connect you with other programs and resources that could assist you.
Who Is Eligible
The I-Corps program is open to UM Faculty, Students and staff, but also to community members across the State of Montana who have innovative ideas they are interested in pursuing.
Do I Need to Have A Complete Team Before I Apply?
No. The I-Corps team can help you find additional team members. Go ahead and apply and the team will be in touch.
When Does the I-Corps Program Take Place?
The I-Corps program offers 3-4 cohorts per year. Check our website for upcoming dates. You are welcome to submit an application at any time and the team will keep you posted on decision timing for the next available cohort.