NC State I-Corps

The I-Corps Program was created by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) in 2011 to teach university scientists and engineers how to apply Lean Startup methods to bring university-developed products and services to the marketplace.

The goal of the NC State I-Corps Site program is to integrate and leverage existing commercialization infrastructure and capabilities to establish a sustainable program for the commercialization of research discoveries. One anticipated impact will be an increased number of startups with clearly established product-market fit thus stimulating regional economic development.  The NC State I-Corps Site program represents a joint collaboration between the Office of Research Commercialization and the Poole College of Management’s Management, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Department.

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 are typically comprised of three members:
    • Academic Lead – faculty member or co-inventor designated by faculty member. Expect to give 2-4 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 3-5 hours per week.
    • Mentor – someone with business and/or industry experience or experience coaching teams. Expect to give 1-2 hours per week.
  • 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.

By participating in the NC State I-Corps Site you and your team will participate in a training program during the Spring of 2018 that will provide:

  • up to $3,000 for activities to further your business venture through customer discovery
    • Travel to visit potential customers and end users
    • Training and education in entrepreneurship
    • Other needed resources
  • 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 2019 Cohort will be accepted until 5 PM on Friday, 1/25.

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:

What Is I-CORPS?

The National Science Foundation (NSF) seeks to develop and nurture a National Innovation Network (NIN) that builds upon research to guide the output of scientific discoveries closer to the development of technologies, products and processes that benefit society.

In order to contribute to a national innovation ecosystem, NSF established the NSF Innovation Corps Sites Program (NSF I-Corps Sites). Sites are funded at academic institutions, having already existing innovation or entrepreneurial units, to enable them to:

  • Nurture faculty, students, and staff who are engaged in projects having the potential to be transitioned into the marketplace. I-Corps Sites will provide infrastructure, advice, resources, networking opportunities, training and modest funding to enable groups to transition their work into the marketplace or into becoming national Innovation Corps – National Innovation Network Teams Program (I-Corps Teams).
  • Develop formal, active, local innovation ecosystems that contribute to a larger, national network of mentors, researchers, entrepreneurs and investors. Networking is an essential component of all of NSF’s I-Corps activities – local and national networking activities help advance the goals of I-Corps and contribute to local and national ecosystems for innovation.

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.

I-Corps Background

I-Corps Logo

As part of its mission to foster regional growth, NC State’s Office of Research Commercialization has secured an NSF grant to establish an I-Corps Site at NC State. This is a five year program with Fall, Spring, and Summer cohorts with ten teams per cohort. The first Cohort will run during the Fall of 2017.

I-Corps Sites strengthen innovation locally and contribute to the National Innovation Network of mentors, researchers, entrepreneurs and investors.

Research using overhead

This 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.  Since its inception, I-Corps has trained 508 teams from which 261 new companies have emerged.

In 2013, NSF established the National Innovation Network™ (NIN), extending the reach of I-Corps into the developing community of grantees seeking to increase the impact of the program. NIN connects I-Corps grantees to a national pipeline of mentors and collaborators that helps to provide state-of-the-art tools and resources needed for start-up success and commercialization.

The I-Corps Sites Program funds an institution’s entrepreneurial unit that, in turn, provides resources for the creation, development, and nurturing of entrepreneurial teams. Ideally, teams formed under the auspices of the site should include an entrepreneurial lead, an academic lead, and a mentor.

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.

The I-Corps Site contributes up to $3,000 total to individual teams, during the program dates below.

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 team applicants 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 saleable 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)


Program Dates

Spring 2019

  • Friday, 1/25 – Application period closes at 5 PM
  • Monday, 2/11 – Selected teams notified
  • Tuesday, 3/5: 5 PM – 7 PM – Meet & Greet (Selected Teams & Potential Industry Mentors)
  • Tuesday, 3/19: 9 AM – 2 PM, Session 1
  • Tuesday, 3/26: 9 AM – 11:30 AM, Session 2
  • Tuesday, 4/9: 9 AM – 11:30 AM, Session 3
  • Tuesday, 4/23: 9 AM – 11:30 AM, Session 4
  • Tuesday, 4/30: 9 AM – 11:30 AM, Session 5
  • Tuesday, 5/14: 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
Executive Director
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



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

Example Videos

Final Videos from past NC State I-Corps Teams participating in the national Innovation Corps – National Innovation Network Teams Program (I-Corps Teams) ($50k Program)