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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 $3,000 in grant funding to conduct customer discovery, market research or purchase supplies to create a prototype for their STEM technology.

Broadening opportunities and enabling the participation of all citizens -- women and men, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities -- is essential to the health and vitality of science and engineering. NSF is committed to this principle of diversity and deems it central to the programs, projects, and activities it considers and supports.

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Our Impact | By the Numbers
Since 2014: 
208 I-Corps Site teams with 682 program participants       
> $76M in follow on funding to teams
36 teams accepted to accelerator programs
18 SBIR/STTR Phase 1 and 7 Phase 2 grants received by teams
34% of teams have founders from STEM underrepresented minority groups

Testimonial from Shayan Gupta of Audition Technology

  • attend required CONNECTS seminars and six 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 $3,000 for eligible customer discovery expenses (conferences and industry trade shows, developing prototypes, etc., 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 Swartz Center events and the Olympus Show & Tell
  • receive information on applying for the national I-Corps Team program, SBIR/STTR grants, regional accelerator programs and external funding opportunities
  • teams commercializing university research with no prior NSF funding will obtain eligibility to apply for an I-Corps National Teams cohort $50,000 grant award 
  • Team members can include CMU faculty, staff, students and alumni graduated within the past year
  • Eligible projects must be in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) discipline
  •  Team composition (the Swartz Center can assist with finding team members):
      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: All teams are assigned a mentor for the duration of the program
  • Must commit to attending required workshops and cohort meetings (six 2 hour evening cohort meetings and CONNECTS seminars as per program schedule)
  • Must perform a minimum of 30 customer interviews by the end of the cohort
  • Participate in survey at end of cohort for program evaluation 

PI and Co-PIs: Kit Needham, Melanie Simko, Robert Dammon, David Mawhinney and Robert Wooldridge

Program Manager: Melanie Simko

Entrepreneurs-in-Residence: Jeannine Siviy, Stephan Mueller, Dawn Rucker and Kit Needham 

Liaison, Center for Technology Transfer: Reed McManigle