NSF I-Corps Helps UNCG Community Bring Their Research to Life

Posted on November 11, 2021

national science foundation logo feature image

You may not realize that UNC Greensboro is a National Science Foundation I-Corps designated university. This brings great potential value to UNCG students and faculty.

What is the purpose NSF I-Corps?

The National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) is a federally funded program to help prepare researchers to extend their focus beyond the university and accelerates the economic and societal benefits of research projects that are ready to move toward commercialization.

How is NSF I-Corps structured?

The program connects academic researchers with the communities who might use their innovation through the work of I-Corps Teams, I-Corps Sites and I-Corps Nodes, which combined make up the National Innovation Network. 

NSF I-Corps Logo for UNCG and A&T

What is the base methodology of I-Corps?

I-Corps is based on the Lean Launchpad (LLP) Methodology, which is basically the scientific method for identifying a real-world opportunity for a product, service or innovation. LLP enables the systematic identification of knowledge gaps in order to understand the most appropriate path forward for their concept.

How is UNCG Involved in I-Corps?

Through a competitive evaluation process, in August 2017, UNCG + NCAT were awarded a 5-year, $500,000 grant to become established as an I-Corps Site. Along with UNCG + NCAT, were also selected in 2017, joining UNCC as the only other NSF I-Corps affiliated programs in NC.

What is the structure of I-Corps Program?

The I-Corps Program will feature the LLP Short-Course, encompassing multiple 4-5 week cohorts throughout the year, with a goal of training 30 teams each year on the LLP Methodology. Teams consist of at least a student Entrepreneur Lead (EL), faculty Primary Investigator (PI) and Mentor. These teams will be in cohorts of 5-10 teams, receiving “mini-grants” up to $10,000 to fund their customer discovery process, prototyping, and other seed expenses the team. Teams will be expected to complete 20-30 customer discovery interviews throughout the cohort timeline, with a goal of developing a clear direction in which to take their innovation upon completion.

Who is eligible for the UNCG  I-Corps Program?

The I-Corps Program is open to current UNCG undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, and recent alumni. Ideally, teams will be complete with at least 3 members – student, faculty, and mentor. If individuals are unable to form a complete team, they are still encouraged to apply as we will be able to assist in developing a completed team.

What are the benefits of I-Corps?

  • Seed Funding, mini-grant $2k-$5k
  • SBIR/STTR – “60% increased chance of obtaining SBIR/STTR funding”
  • Partners for Funding/Sponsorship
  • Best Application of your Research
  • Greater Understanding of how Innovation can Impact Society
  • Designated as NSF-Funded Project, Gain NSF Lineage
  • Nationally Recognized & Certified Program & Network
  • Guidance from Established Entrepreneurs
  • Assistance with Intellectual Property protection
  • Savings in Time and Money through Accelerated Understanding
  • Enhanced Entrepreneurial Mindset
  • Greater Self-Confidence, and Better Presentation/Interpersonal skills, in a Business Setting
  • Broadened Professional Network

Learn more about I-Corps here.