New NSF effort expands I-Corps™ Teams training program

Pilot entrepreneurial training added before and after I-CorpsTM to support researchers in startup creation

The U.S. National Science Foundation announced a $5 million novel entrepreneurial training and mentoring program for academic researchers. This training will arm early-stage entrepreneurs with the information and confidence they need to launch a startup to commercialize their technology.

"The new entrepreneurial training aligns with the goals of the 'CHIPS and Science Act of 2022,'" said Erwin Gianchandani, NSF assistant director for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP). "It will serve to accelerate the translation of research and increase the successful commercialization of key technology areas, thereby strengthening U.S. economic competitiveness."

The pilot is a comprehensive approach to entrepreneurial training that specifically builds upon and extends the long-running NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps™). I-Corps uses the customer discovery process to validate customer segments, value propositions and other aspects of the business model. This training consists of three components, starting with the Jumpstart Academy, then I-Corps, and concluding with the Next-Steps Accelerator, which provides support services and additional training for a startup launch. Training topics include:

  • Validating the business model.
  • Forming the founding team.
  • Registering the business licensing and protecting intellectual property.
  • Obtaining sources of capital.
  • Pitching to investors.
  • Preparing for startup growth and exit strategies.

Upon successfully completing the training, participants will receive additional support services such as industry-specific mentoring and funds for additional research to develop and test a minimum viable product.

"We are thrilled to offer another pathway for researchers to transition promising ideas and technologies from the lab to society," said TIP Division Director for Translational Impact Barry Johnson. "This new pilot strengthens NSF's existing lab-to-market programs, and underscores our commitment to early-stage entrepreneurs, ensuring they have the support they need at key points to succeed in their entrepreneurial journeys."

Established in 2011, the I-Corps program is designed to support the commercialization of deep technologies, which grow from discoveries in fundamental science and engineering. The recent released of the program's 2023 biennial report shows more than 2,500 I-Corps teams created nearly 1,400 startups and raised $3.16 billion since its inception.