NC State I-Corps

The NC State I-Corps Site offers a National Science Foundation training program aimed specifically at helping researchers transition their ideas and inventions into the marketplace through customer discovery and market research.

I-Corps participants will gain:

  • Funding for Market & Customer Research
  • Entrepreneurial training and support from industry experts
  • Access to NSF Resources

Apply now for the upcoming Fall 2020 cohort! 

What to Expect?

The NC State I-Corps Site 6-session program is aimed at arriving at a “go” or “no-go” team decision on whether to pursue commercialization of a technology.

Teams will receive instruction on performing customer discovery and market research at the beginning of the course and will then perform customer interviews each week. Each team will present on their interview findings at the weekly meeting sessions.

  • Expectations:
    • At least one team member is expected to attend all program events.
    • Teams are expected to commit to engaging in market research, customer discovery and other commercialization-focused activities outside of class.
    • Teams should complete at least 30 customer interviews by the end of the program.
  • Typical Team Composition:
    • Academic Lead – faculty member or co-inventor designated by faculty member. Expect to give 3-5 hours per week.
    • Entrepreneurial Lead  – typically a graduate student or postdoc working in the Academic Lead’s research program (teams may have more than one Entrepreneurial Lead if desired). Expect to give 6-9 hours per week.
    • Mentor – someone with business and/or industry experience or experience coaching teams. Expect to give 1-2 hours per week.
  • Program Benefits:
    • up to $3,000 for travel to interview potential customers and end users of your technology
    • access to knowledgeable mentors who will provide you with domain and business expertise
    • become members of the NSF’s National Innovation Network and be able to claim NSF legacy funding
    • receive guidance in obtaining additional research and development funding including the national NSF I-Corps Team program, SBIR/STTR grants, regional accelerator programs and external funding opportunities

Application Process

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Applications for the Spring 2020 Cohort will be accepted until 5 PM on Friday, January 24th.

Each team will be required to submit a short application that will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Team and Commitment
  • Technology Strength
  • Commercial Potential
  • Fit with I-Corps Sites
  • Intellectual Property Strength

Apply here:

Program Process

1. One person from the Team submits an application for the entire Team (the I-Corps site can help you create a 3-person team):

2. Ten teams will be selected per cohort (Fall, Spring, Summer) based on:

  • Team and Commitment – The I-Corps Sites program seeks participants with an interest in entrepreneurship and technology commercialization. This includes a willingness to talk to non-scientists about your technology, develop hypotheses on how the technology might be developed into a product, and work towards technology development (rather than basic research) grants. Experience is a plus, but not a requirement.
  • Technology Strength – I-Corps Sites deals mainly with early stage technologies in need of some level of validation. The committee will look at research to date that would indicate likely success, and at the technology’s potential to by applied to more than one application or to fit very well into the proposed application.
  • Commercial Potential/Applications – The committee is looking for a thoughtful, and plausible, explanation of how your technology might be turned into a salable product. Much of the program is dedicated to testing your hypotheses about commercialization. However, strong applicants will have basic ideas about what a product would look like, who would buy it, and who their competitors would be.
  • Fit with I-Corps Program – The first and most important goal of I-Corps Sites is to teach faculty and students how to think about commercialization. Teams that are enthusiastic about technology commercialization and have clear goals that fit synergistically with what is taught in the program will be favored. The committee will also look for teams with testable hypotheses regarding how their technology could be commercialized.
  • Intellectual Property Strength – Strong patent protection is characterized by broad claims that protect your technology and the space around it, as well as an understanding of related patents and publications that may limit your patent’s scope. A patent or copyright (or a willingness to file one) is a requirement to participate in I-Corps Sites.

3. Team completes 6-session NSF NC State I-Corps Site Program

4. Team makes a “go” or “no go” decision on pursuing commercialization through the national Innovation Corps – National Innovation Network Teams Program (I-Corps Teams) program (an intensive 8-week NSF training with $50,000 grant)


What Is I-CORPS?

In order to contribute to a national innovation ecosystem, NSF established the NSF Innovation Corps Sites Program (NSF I-Corps Sites). 

The purpose of an I-Corps Site is to nurture and support multiple, local teams to transition their ideas, devices, processes or other intellectual activities into the marketplace.

The NC State I-Corps Site program assists scientists and engineers in extending their focus beyond the laboratory to increase the economic impact of selected NSF-funded research projects. The program partners innovative academic researchers, undergraduate/graduate students, and entrepreneurial staff with entrepreneurial mentors to identify market opportunities for new technologies that benefit society and the economy.  Each team participates in the I-Corps curriculum, based on Stanford’s Lean LaunchPad process, via on-site training at NC State. Started at four locations in 2013, the number of active NSF I-Corps Sites has grown to more than 70 active Sites across the nation.

Site team ideas or projects can originate from student work, research (funded or unfunded), institutional, or industrial projects. The topical focus of a project must be in an area(s) of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) normally supported by the National Science Foundation.

Learn more about NSF’s I-Corps Program

Program Dates

Spring 2020

  • Friday, 1/24 – Application period closes at 5 PM
  • Monday, 2/3 – Selected teams notified
  • Thursday, 2/20: 5 PM – 7 PM – Meet & Greet (Selected Teams & Potential Industry Mentors)
  • Thursday, 3/5: 9 AM – 2 PM, Session 1
  • Tuesday, 3/17: 9 AM – 11:30 AM, Session 2
  • Tuesday, 3/24: 9 AM – 11:30 AM, Session 3
  • Tuesday, 4/7: 9 AM – 11:30 AM, Session 4
  • Tuesday, 4/21: 9 AM – 11:30 AM, Session 5
  • Tuesday, 5/12: 9 AM – 2 PM, Session 6


  • Can our team have more than one entrepreneurial lead?
    • Yes.
  • I am interested in participating, but do not yet have a 3-person team. Can you help?
    • Yes, the I-Corps Site team will work with you to help identify potential team members. Please indicate this is desired when completing the application.
  • The technology I am interested in was not funded by the NSF. Can I still participate?
    • Yes. Also, by completing in the I-Corps Site program, you will establish an NSF funding lineage for your project, making it eligible for other sources of commercialization-focused funding from NSF.
  • What can I-Corps Funds be used for? What are eligible expenses?
    • The scope of the funding that an I-Corps Site may expend on teams can include, but is not limited to: travel expenses to consult with potential clients or experts and training or education related to entrepreneurial immersion. I-Corps Site support for an institution’s entrepreneurial teams should not be used for prototype expenses or legal or administrative costs.

NC State Site Team




Wade Fulghum, MBA
Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research Commercialization
Office of Research Commercialization
Principal Investigator & I-Corps Managing Director


Kultaran Chohan, Ph.D., LLM
Director of Licensing
Office of Research Commercialization


Lisa Chang, MBA
Director, Technology Entrepreneurship
and Commercialization (TEC)
Poole College of Management


Kevin Wright, MBA
Lecturer, Management, Innovation
and Entrepreneurship
Poole College of Management


Raj Narayan, J.D., M.S.M.
Associate Director, Kenan Institute
for Engineering, Technology &
Science Professor of the Practice
of Entrepreneurship, Poole
College of Management



Amy Parker
New Ventures Associate
I-Corps Program Manager & Budget Review Officer