NSF I-Corps Site Program
Through the Innovation Corps (or I-Corps) Site program at Carnegie Mellon University, NSF grantees learn to identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from academic research, and gain skills in entrepreneurship through training in customer discovery and guidance from established entrepreneurs. Teams can receive up to $2,500 in grant funding to conduct customer discovery, market research or purchase supplies to create a prototype for their STEM technology.
Since 2014, the CMU I-Corps Site program has trained 139 teams across all 7 CMU schools. After participation in I-Corps, 20 teams have gone on to participate in nationally ranked accelerator programs and, in total, teams have received more than $37M in follow on funding. More program successes can be found in our CMU I-Corps Site Impact Report [pdf].
Explore Program Benefits
- attend required CONNECTS seminars and seven cohort progress meetings for focused customer discovery training and valuable networking with past and present I-Corps site teams and mentors (see program schedule for more information)
- receive reimbursement for up to $2,500 for eligible customer discovery expenses (domestic travel to industry trade shows, visits to potential customers and/or developing prototypes, participation in cohort curriculum is required to be eligible for reimbursement)
- become part of the Project Olympus incubator program (see Benefits to Becoming a PROBE [pdf])
- have a dedicated mentor who will meet with your team to provide you with business expertise, advise on pitch development and help grow your network of contacts
- have priority opportunities to showcase your venture at LaunchCMU events and the Olympus Show & Tell
- receive guidance in writing proposals for the national I-Corps Team program, SBIR/STTR grants, regional accelerator programs and external funding opportunities
- obtain eligibility to apply for an I-Corps National Teams cohort $50,000 grant award if no previous NSF lineage
- Carnegie Mellon faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students, staff, and recent alumni are eligible to apply.
- Eligible projects must be in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) discipline
- Must have at least a three person team consisting of:
An academic lead: will serve as Principal Investigator (PI), typically CMU Faculty/Staff
An entrepreneurial lead: can be a student, faculty/staff, or recent alumni
A business mentor: The Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship can assign you a mentor
- Must commit to attending required workshops and cohort meetings (approximately six 1.5 workshops and six 1.5 hour evening cohort meetings)
- Must perform a minimum of 30 (ideally 50) customer interviews by the end of the cohort
- Participate in focus study at end of cohort for program evaluation
Program and Expense Forms
- Brochure and Elevator Pitch Workshop - Kit Needham - 10.17.18 [pdf]
- Business Model Canvas - Will Kaigler - 10/3/18 [pdf]
- Customer Discovery - Kit Needham - 2.13.19 [pdf]
- Competitive Analysis - Kit Needham - 2.14.18 [pdf]
- Competitive Analysis - Ryan Splenda - 2.21.19 [ppt]
- Product Pitch slides - Kit Needham - 10.17.18 [pdf]
NSF I-Corps / SBIR / STTR Funding Information
- NSF America's Seed Fund SBIR/STTR - Here you can review eligibility, apply for current solicitations, view a timeline with links to topic areas, program director contact info, required registrations needed to apply for SBIR/STTR, etc.
- NSF IIP YouTube Channel - Webinars on NSF I-Corps programs and SBIR/STTR funding.
- SBIR/STTR Open Solicitations - Links to open SBIR/STTR solicitations from various governmental agencies.
- SBIR/STTR On-Line Tutorials - Tutorials in video, multimedia and pdf formats.
- Innovation Partnership (iPart) Micro Voucher Program - IPart offers assistance to technology-driven companies in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in preparing high quality SBIR/STTR grant proposals for submission to federal funding agencies. (Please contact a program sponsor in your area at least 2 months prior to the SBIR/STTR application deadline to apply for iPart assistance.)
PI and Co-PIs: Kit Needham, Melanie Simko, Robert Dammon, David Mawhinney, Andrew Moore and Robert Wooldridge
Program Manager: Melanie Simko
Entrepreneurs-in-Residence: MaryDel Brady, Elijah Mayfield, Dawn Rucker and Kit Needham
Liaison, Center for Technology Transfer: Reed McManigle