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I-Corps Program

The I-Corps program is a five-week short course, based upon the successful National Science Foundation I-Corps and I-Corps at NIH Entrepreneurial Training Program, which combines business model training with a customer discovery process.

The short course provides biomedical scientists, clinicians, engineers and students with a methodology to accelerate the translation of discoveries from the lab to clinical practice. The curriculum provides a real-world, hands-on, immersive learning experience in how to transform innovations into successful products and services.

This course is designed to help participants:

  • determine the commercial viability of an innovation;
  • learn how to “get out of the building” and talk to potential customers, partners and competitors;
  • define the potential market and customers;
  • develop a successful business case for securing funding;
  • expand their network of innovation partners, mentors and potential collaborators;
  • create pathway to transition into a real-world application;
  • develop a new way of thinking about research; and
  • receive eligibility to participate in the national NSF I-Corps Teams program.

The I-Corps program is an initiative of the Center for Medical Innovation.

Next cohort dates:

  • Spring 2024 cohort will run from May 2 to June 13, 2024.

Apply for I-Corps Program

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Learn More About I-Corps

Who Should Participate? Expand answer

Faculty, clinicians, staff or students with biomedical innovations or ideas who are interested in learning more about the process of customer discovery and how it can improve their research and accelerate translation into clinical practice should consider applying for I-Corps.

Participants should be able to commit to attending all sessions throughout the course and be willing to find and talk to at least 30 potential customers in five weeks.

Learning Objectives Expand answer
  • Identify needs from the customer perspective through the customer discovery process.
  • Enhance and accelerate research and competitiveness of funding proposals by developing a compelling business case for research, focused on value propositions, customer segments, revenue and costs.
  • Define the clinical utility for a technology before spending resources on development. Gather data essential to customer partnerships and collaborations before doing the science.
  • Understand and further define the commercial market for a technology.
  • Build relationships with essential partners within the Penn State innovation ecosystem and external stakeholders.
  • Recognize the barriers that industry faces and the sales/marketing process required for initial clinical sales and downstream commercialization.
  • Strengthen self-confidence and presentation skills through biweekly presentations.
Course Strategy Expand answer

The course includes education on topics unique to biomedical research commercialization utilizing the scientific method as a way to test potential commercial pathways and build a compelling business case. The Business Model Canvas guides participants through hypothesis testing as they identify key customers and refine the commercial market for the technology.

Customer Discovery Interviews Expand answer

I-Corps focuses primarily on the customer discovery process, a methodology for uncovering the underlying causes of customer needs. A significant amount of time will be spent scheduling, conducting and debriefing interviews. Entrepreneurial mentors will provide feedback to participants based on their customer discovery presentations. Participants are asked to complete five interviews per week as part of the course. Teams then use the data and feedback to help guide product development and build a successful business case for securing funding.

Teams Expand answer

Each cohort will accept up to eight teams. Teams should have a minimum of two members and a maximum of four members. Those interested in joining an existing team should select the appropriate box on the application form.

Typical teams include the following members:

  • Academic lead: The academic lead is preferably an individual with an academic appointment that would qualify this member to submit proposals or play a role of principal investigator in subsequent submissions to the National Science Foundation (NSF) or National Institutes of Health (NIH). The academic lead can also be a postdoctoral scholar, a student, a professional staff member or an alumnus, provided the individual has a deep understanding of the technology that serves as the focus of the project.
  • Entrepreneurial lead: The entrepreneurial lead is a postdoctoral scholar, a student, a professional staff member or an alumnus with relevant knowledge of the technology and a deep commitment to investigating the commercial landscape surrounding the innovation.
  • Mentor: A mentor can either apply as part of a team or be provided by the program. A mentor will typically be an experienced or emerging entrepreneur who can transition technology out of an academic lab. A mentor is responsible for guiding the team forward and tracking progress.
  • Student team members: Penn State students are welcome to participate as team members during the course. As team members, students can gain value through the process and assist with scheduling and conducting interviews, as well as assisting with presentation materials.‚Äč
Course Schedule Expand answer

Attendance is required for at least one team member at each class session. Participants and teams are expected to commit approximately 10 hours per week for the duration of the program. Current and upcoming cohort schedules are listed below.

How to Apply Expand answer

To apply, please complete the online registration on InfoReady at the link below. Registration deadline for the spring 2024 cohort is April 1, 2024.

Apply here

Sites Expand answer

A map shows the 50 U.S. states. Nine stars indicate the location of colleges or universities that serve as I-Corps@NCATS Mentor Nodes, including Penn State in Pennsylvania. Also, 13 squares indicate I-Corps@NCATS Trainee Sites.

The I-Corps@NCATS network extends across the entire country through regionally dispersed Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) hubs.

Penn State College of Medicine was awarded Mentor Node status in 2020 as part of a three-year mentoring grant from NCATS at the National Institutes for Health.

Mentor Nodes

  • Emory University/GATech
  • Penn State
  • Rockefeller University
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • University of California – Davis
  • University of Colorado – Denver
  • University of Massachusetts Medical School – Worcester
  • University of Miami School of Medicine
  • University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Trainee Sites

  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Columbia University Health Sciences
  • Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Medical University of South Carolina
  • Northwestern University at Chicago
  • Oregon Health & Sciences University
  • Rutgers Biomedical/Health Sciences
  • University of Buffalo
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Rochester
  • University of Texas Medical Branch – Galveston
  • University of Utah
  • University of Virginia
Instructors and Mentors Expand answer

Past Cohorts

2023 Expand answer
2022 Expand answer
2021 Expand answer
2020 Expand answer
2019 Expand answer
2017 Expand answer
2016 Expand answer

Contact the Program

For questions, contact Anne DeChant, Innovation Program Manager, at