NSF I-Corps comes to Syracuse University this fall

I Corps logo

National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-CorpsTM) gives researchers the opportunity to combine their strong technical and scientific knowledge with an entrepreneurial mindset. The program accelerates the economic and societal benefits of NSF-funded research projects with the goal of helping bring technologies to market. The Upstate New York I-Corps Node, part of the National Innovation Network of NSF-funded researchers from I-Corps, is offering a free short course at Syracuse University Libraries in October 2019. The course will connect Syracuse University faculty and students with seasoned entrepreneurs, potential industry partners, and other researchers working with innovative Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) initiatives.

The free two-week course is being jointly coordinated through the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars, the Syracuse University Office of Tech Transfer, and the Syracuse University Innovation Law Center + NYS Science and Law Technology Center. Participants will learn how to acquire and apply information from the marketplace, customer interviews, and industry partners to their initiative.  Individual researchers, or teams of up to three people, are eligible to apply online for participation, and eight teams will be accepted. Participants connect with the NSF I-Corps network of mentors, sites, nodes, and programming, and are better positioned for NSF and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding opportunities. Teams who successfully complete the short course can earn NSF lineage, which is needed to apply to the national I-Corps Teams program. The course focuses on customer discovery, building a business model to confirm the best pathway to market, and testing assumptions. It will be taught by experienced faculty and mentors from the Upstate New York I-Corps Node, which acts as a hub for commercialization training in the Northeast, connecting researchers to valuable resources through national and regional I-Corps programming.

Syracuse University course dates are:

  • Session 1: Friday, October 11, 4 pm – 8 pm, Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, Bird Library
  • Session 2: Saturday, October 12, 10:30 am – 2:30 pm, Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, Bird Library
  • Session 3: Wednesday, October 16, 2 pm – 3 pm, on-line
  • Session 4: Wednesday, October 23, 2 pm – 3pm, on-line
  • Session 5: Friday, October 25, 12 pm – 4pm, Hillyer Room (606), Bird Library

“The NSF I-Corps short course was invaluable,” said Angelica O’ Hara ‘19, (College of Engineering and Computer Science) Prioritage founder, who participated in the program last fall after winning first place in the 2018 Invent@SU NYC program.  “With no prior entrepreneurial skills, this course helped me grasp business canvas models, customer segments, and most importantly, how to conduct unbiased scientific interviews.  It was a huge game changer in how I viewed my product.”

The program also better positioned O’ Hara to work closely with the LaunchPad over the academic year to develop a business model and work on a commercialization roadmap.  She encourages other SU inventors to apply for the I-Corps program and to engage with the University’s well-connected innovation ecosystem.  “The I-Corps short course was hard work, but really worth it,” she noted.

Prioritage went on to win one of the top prizes in the LaunchPad’s Impact Prize Competition sponsored by Syracuse University Libraries and was a finalist in the highly selective Martin J. Whitman School of Management’s Panasci Business Plan Competition.  This summer she put her entrepreneurial skills to work as a teaching assistant for the 2019 Invent@SU New York City program, and she will be starting graduate school this coming fall.

Who Should Apply to Upstate New York I-Corps Node Short Course?

Any New York-based academic researchers and student entrepreneurs who:

  • Have a technology innovation in any STEM field and want to explore its commercialization potential
  • Are willing to find and talk to 30 potential customers in two weeks
  • May want to apply for the NSF I-Corps Teams national program and a $50,000 grant
  • Have one “Entrepreneurial Lead,” typically a graduate or post-doctoral student, but sometimes an undergraduate, with interest in pursuing astartup business based on STEM technology. Up to two additional team members are optional and can include a “Technical Lead,” or faculty or senior laboratory staff member, and an “Industry Mentor,” or experienced entrepreneur who will support the entrepreneurial lead in market

How The Program Works:

During the free 2-week course, researchers working on a technical innovation “get out of the lab” and talk with 30 potential customers to identify the best product to market fit. The course begins with an in-person kickoff workshop, where teams learn how to use the Business Model Canvas, a hypothesis-testing methodology, and customer discovery interviews to explore if there’s a viable market fit for their product idea. The course ends with an in-person closing workshop (half-day), where teams present their findings, get more coaching, and learn about next steps with NSF I-Corps and other entrepreneurship programs. I-Corps short course graduates then become eligible for national I-Corps teams.

For more information on Syracuse University I-Corps program partners, contact:

About the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at Syracuse University Libraries:

The Blackstone LaunchPad in Bird Library is Syracuse University’s innovation hub, connecting the entire University’s resource-rich ecosystem with a global network that provides support for aspiring entrepreneurs, inventors and creators. The program serves faculty, staff, students, and alumni across disciplines who are interested in venture creation and taking ideas for products, services or technologies from concept to commercialization. The program prepares participants to be trailblazers in an entrepreneurial world.