What is I-Corps?
The National Science Foundation (NSF) seeks to develop and nurture a national innovation ecosystem that builds upon fundamental research to guide the output of scientific discoveries closer to the development of technologies, products and processes that benefit society.
The purpose of the NSF I-Corps Teams grant is to give the project team access to resources to help determine the readiness to transition technology developed by previously-funded or currently-funded NSF projects. The outcomes of I-Corps Teams projects will be threefold: 1) a clear go or no go decision regarding viability of products and services, 2) should the decision be to move the effort forward, a transition plan for those projects to move forward, and 3) a technology demonstration for potential partners.
*A webinar will be held on the first Tuesday of every month to answer questions about this program. Details will be posted on the I-Corps website as they become available.
How do I apply to I-Corps?
Teams can apply based on participation in a local or regional NSF-supported I-Corps training (ZAP! and BOOM) run by a current I-Corps Site or Node. In that case, the NSF grant that establishes the team’s I-Corps Teams Program eligibility will be the NSF I-Corps Site or Node Grant. If a team is applying through this route a senior member of that I-Corps Site or Node staff must provide a recommendation for the team’s consideration in the national I-Corps program. The technology underlying the effort will also need to be consistent with NSF requirements on intellectual merit and represent a significant technical innovation.
Is my team eligible?
Some areas of consideration include team composition, potential impact on the market, and overall time horizon to impact.
Team composition. Examples of areas that could be considered in these criteria include the following:
• The team structure should conform to the requirements described in the solicitation.
• Teams applying after participation in a local or regional I-Corps program should demonstrate clear customer discovery learning from that program.
• Teams should be able to articulate an initial, preliminary vision for the commercialization of the technology. This will inform a clear starting point in the I-Corps Teams program’s customer discovery process.
• Team members should have sufficient time to participate in the I-Corps Teams training.
• Team members should understand their roles on the I-Corps team and express willingness to support the full cohort.
Potential impact on market. Examples of areas that could be consider in this criteria include the following:
• The technology should be sufficiently developed or demonstrated to motivate the exploration of commercial potential.
• The team should be able to articulate a clear hypothesis on the problems in the market that the innovation could address.
• The team should be able to articulate a clear hypothesis on key market stakeholders.
• The team should be able to articulate a clear hypothesis on the value the innovation could offer those stakeholders.
• Time horizon to impact. Examples of areas that could be consider in this criteria include the following:
• There should be sufficient questions remaining regarding the determination of product-market fit.
• The envisioned time to market should be sufficiently short to motivate the team’s exploration of commercial potential and reflect the urgency of the team and project’s prompt participation in I-Corps.
• The technology should be positioned such that a meaningful go / no-go decision can be envisioned at the end of the I-Corps Teams training.
Who should I choose as a mentor?
I-Corps Mentors are advisors that have two primary roles. First, by being a third party resource for the team, the mentor can help the team recognize and reduce confirmation bias during the customer discovery process. In this role the I-Corps Mentor is in some ways an extension of the I-Corps Teaching Team in helping the team absorb and apply the relevant lessons. Second, the I-Corps Mentor should be someone that has industry contacts and knows the ecosystem of the target market area. I-Corps Teams will be interviewing more than 100 potential customers and potential partners in person. A good mentor can help the team find the right people to interview.
We recommend that Teams first explore opportunities for recruiting Mentors through offices at their own institutions like the Innovation Center or Incubator, Alumni Office, Business or Industry Advisory Boards, or other locally or regionally based organizations or professionals engaged in commercialization. Teams are also encouraged to reach out to NSF I-Corps Site and Node grant recipients in their region they often have their own networks of mentors and may be able to assist.
What is ZAP!?
ZAP! introduces participants to the Lean Startup methodology and techniques to direct customer discovery through field interviews. Participants are required to conduct at least five customer interviews; the two sessions are separated by a 7-30 day window to allow time for the interviews. Selected participants who complete the program may participate in special events organized by IN-LA. Teams that complete ZAP! will be eligible to enroll in BOOM.
What is BOOM?
The advanced BOOM course consists of two sessions, requires 10 interviews and is conducted entirely online. Additional guidance for the aerospace/defense and healthcare industries is provided. Select teams that complete BOOM will be eligible to apply for the $50,000 National I-Corps team grant.
BOOM teams, like National I-Corps teams, are composed of three members: the Entrepreneurial Lead, typically a postdoctoral researcher, graduate student, or other student who possesses relevant technical knowledge and a deep commitment to investigate the commercial landscape surrounding the innovation; the Principal Investigator who serves as the technical lead and project manager; and the Business Mentor who provides entrepreneurial experience and serves as the principal guide in determining the technology disposition.
If a team role is not currently filled, input N/A.
How do I prepare for the first ZAP session?
During the first course, you will learn business terminology and how to interview customers to understand their needs. You are required to fill in a two-slide template prior to the first class. Don’t worry if you don’t know all the terms, we will teach them during the course.
Do I need to pay?
There is no fee for ZAP!.
Where is the classroom?
Class location and details will be provided to you 1 week prior to the first class.
How do I access course materials?
Course materials will be provided to you 1 week prior to the first class.
Does PI or mentor need to attend ZAP!?
While it can be beneficial for the PI to attend ZAP!, it is not required. The Entrepreneurial Lead is the only team member required to attend the course.
Do I have to attend both sessions?
Attendance is mandatory for both sessions.
When will the next session be offered?
Please check in the IN-LA calendar to find future course offerings.
Do I have to attend ZAP at my university?
We encourage you to attend the course held at your universities. If you are unable to attend the course at your school, please contact Precious McClendon or Viviana Teofilo