Innovations Program

Innovations, an initiative of Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute held in partnership with the Center for Medical Innovation, supports the translation of biomedical research by providing early-stage education and strategic guidance to faculty, staff and students during the ideation phase of technology development.

The four-week course, designed specifically for the biomedical researcher at Penn State, guides interdisciplinary teams through a hands-on process of understanding the market for their technology or idea utilizing the iCorps (National Science Foundation/National Institutes of Health Innovation Corps) methodology of customer discovery.

The program is designed to provide participants with:

  • Education on the customer discovery and technology commercialization process
  • Answers to critical market questions at an early stage
  • Where a technology has value, what problem it solves and the pathway to transition into a real-world application
  • A clear decision on whether to move forward with a technology, wait for further development or abandon it

For details, email or call 717-531-8496.

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More about Innovations

Who Should Participate? Expand answer

Faculty, staff or students who are interested in learning more about the process of customer discovery and how it can improve their research should consider applying for Innovations.

Participants should be able to commit to attending all sessions in the four-week course.

What You'll Learn Expand answer
  • Learn to identify needs from the customer perspective through the customer discovery process.
  • Enhance and accelerate your research and competitiveness of funding proposals by developing a compelling business case for your research, focused on value propositions, customer segments, revenue and costs.
  • Define the clinical utility for a technology now 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.
  • Strengthen your self-confidence and presentation skills through weekly presentations.
  • Understand where your research fits into the world and why it is important.
  • Understand the needs of the world from the customers perspective.
  • Develop a greater appreciation for the barriers that industry faces in implementing a new idea.
  • Understand the customers and the sales/marketing process required for initial clinical sales and downstream commercialization.

  • Assess the intellectual property and regulatory risk before designing and building a prototype.
  • Identify financing vehicles before they are needed.
Is Innovations for You? Expand answer

“But my research is not ready for commercialization…” – The best time to participate in the Innovations Program is during the ideation phase (very early stage) of technology development. If a prototype has been built, it’s too late.

“But I’m too busy…” – Participation in the program requires a minimal time commitment in comparison to the time and resources that could be wasted on a misdirected technology. The purpose of the program is to accelerate a project by asking the most important questions up front in order to save significant time in the future.

“But what about disclosing any intellectual property…” – All information shared during the course should be considered public. You should not share any proprietary or confidential information. However, the program is not interested in the details of how the technology works; therefore, any confidential information can easily be omitted. If a conversation leads to participants sharing proprietary information, the discussion is covering the wrong topics. Participants should be listening rather than selling.

“But I already know how to do this…” – Have you already filled a need in the marketplace? If not, this course is for you.

Time Commitment Expand answer

Innovations is a four-week course. Attendance is required at each session.

Participants and teams are expected to commit approximately 15 to 20 hours per week for the duration of the program.

Course Overview Expand answer

The Innovations course includes education on topics unique to biomedical research commercialization.

Course Strategy

The course utilizes 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

The course focuses primarily on the customer discovery process. A significant amount of time during the course 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 program.


Each cohort will accept up to eight teams. Participants should apply to the program as a team. Teams should have a minimum of two members and a maximum of four members. If you are interested in joining an existing team, please email

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 (PI) in subsequent submissions to the National Science Foundation (NSF) or National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Academic Lead can also be a post-doctoral scholar, a student, a professional staff or alumni 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, professional staff member or alumni 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 a team member during the course. As a team member, students can gain value through the process and assist with scheduling and conducting interviews, as well as, assisting with presentation materials.​
How to Apply Expand answer

Current Session

The Fall 2018 session of Innovations will take place starting in late August.

  • Selection announcement: July 31, 2018
  • Orientation: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 29, 2018, Room C3860, Penn State College of Medicine
  • Innovations sessions: All sessions will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. in HCAR1103.
    • Sept. 5, 2018
    • Sept. 17, 2018
    • Sept. 26, 2018
    • Oct. 8, 2018

Application Process

Individuals or teams will be selected for each Innovations cohort in a two-round application process. Teams can complete one application listing all team members.

The application serves to identify strong teams to participate in the program.

Interviews will take place to evaluate select teams based upon their application. Teams will be invited to participate in an in-person interview with the program instructor. Admission to the program will be announced following the interview process.

Past Cohorts Expand answer



Instructors and Mentors Expand answer
Contact the Program Expand answer

For questions on Innovations, email or call 717-531-8496.