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NSF I-Corps Frequently Asked Questions


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NSF I-Corps Frequently Asked Questions

  1. 1. Questions-and-Answers (Q-and-A)NSF INNOVATION CORPS (I-CORPS) BASICSQ What is I-Corps?A NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) is a public–private partnership that providesgrants to determine the technology disposition of concepts developed by previouslyor currently funded NSF grantees.Q What is the goal of I-Corps?A The NSF I-Corps program has three related and complementary goals: to spurtransformation of fundamental research into useful technological innovation, toencourage collaboration between academia and industry, and to provide studentswith opportunities to learn about and participate in the process of transformingscientific and engineering discoveries into innovative technologies.Q How does I-Corps support the mission of NSF?A The NSF mission is to pursue scientific knowledge to advance the nations health,prosperity, and welfare; this activity will help more science and engineeringdiscoveries realize their potential in technologies and services that benefit society.Q How does I-Corps support the NSF Strategic Plan?A The Innovation Corps will enhance our nation’s economic competitiveness asenjoined by the NSF strategic plan by "reaching out to the range of communitiesthat play complementary roles in the innovation process and are essential toensuring the impact of NSF investments." (See Empowering the National throughDiscovery and Innovation: NSF Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2011–2016, page 3.)Q How much will NSF invest in I-Corps?A NSF anticipates investing $1.25 million in I-Corps projects in FY 2011, pendingavailability of funds. This program will limit indirect costs (F&A) $5,000. Thisprogram is a public–private partnership, with initial private investments secured forFY2011 and FY2012. The program aims to support up to 100 projects at $50,000for up to six months.Q Why is NSF beginning a new activity in a time of increased budget pressure?A NSF understands the importance of its contributions to the nations innovation
  2. 2. ecosystem and other impacts on society. In light of the countrys immediateproblems from the recession as well as long-term structural changes in the globaleconomy, NSF seeks to strengthen, leverage, and accelerate these contributions foreconomic and societal benefits. NSF I-Corps is a strategic investment that will helpthe Foundation achieve this goal.Q For how long will NSF invest in I-Corps?A NSF anticipates investing in I-Corps for at least three years, beginning in FY2011.Q How does this match/work with other programs, especially GOALI andSBIR/STTR?A I-Corps presents a particular opportunity for GOALI grantees, who have alreadyconducted basic research with commercial applications in mind. Businesses thatgrow out of the program may be eligible for research support from the NSFSBIR/STTR programs, and they may partner with NSF centers or other collaborativeactivities.Q What is the best way to learn more about I-Corps?A The latest information about I-Corps will be available on the NSF website In addition, I-Corps program directors will hold a live webinaron the first Tuesday of each month; webinar information will be available at the I-Corps website.I-CORPS PARTICIPANTSQ Which researchers are eligible to participate?A A PI is limited to one I-Corps grant within a 12-month period. They must havean active NSF award or one that has been active within the 5 years from the date ofsubmission of the I-Corps proposal in a science or engineering field relevant to theproposed innovation. See requirements in the NSF Grant Proposal Guide (GPG).Q What is the role of academic researchers in I-Corps?A The principal investigator (PI) will serve as the technical lead and projectmanager, and a postdoctoral researcher, graduate student, or other student will actas the Entrepreneurial Lead.
  3. 3. Q What qualities, knowledge, and experience should be found in theEntrepreneurial Lead?A The Entrepreneurial Lead should possess relevant knowledge of the technologyand a deep commitment to investigate the commercial landscape surrounding theinnovation. The Entrepreneurial Lead should also be capable and have the will tosupport the transition of the technology, should the I-Corps project demonstrate alevel of readiness appropriate to leave the academic institution.Q What is the role of the private sector in I-Corps?A The private sector will also contribute to the funding of NSF I-Corps grants; thiscontribution will be administered by NSF. The I-Corps Mentor will be from theprivate sector and will serve as the principal guide in determining the technologydisposition.Q What makes a good I-Corps Mentor, and how do researchers find one?A The I-Corps Mentor will typically be an experienced or emerging entrepreneurwith proximity to the institution and experience in transiting technology out ofAcademic labs. The I-Corps Mentor must be a third-party resource and may berecommended by the proposing institution or may be a member of the NSF-identified I-Corps Mentor network supported by public–private partnership funding.If an I-Corps Mentor is needed, the NSF Program Director may assist in identifyingone from the I-Corps network. The I-Corps Mentor will be responsible for guidingthe team forward and tracking progress through regular communication with theCognizant NSF I-Corps program director.Q Will grantee teams get the chance to interact with each other?A Periodically, NSF will hold an Innovation Forum where I-Corps teams maynetwork and learn from other I-Corps Mentors and teams.Q Does the awardee organization have to be a research institution?A Eligible organizations must be either an accredited degree-granting institution ora Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC). Accredited degree-granting institutions include U.S. universities and two- and four-year colleges(including community and technical colleges) accredited in and having a campuslocated in the U.S., acting on behalf of their faculty members. FFRDCs must discusseligibility with a Cognizant NSF program director.
  4. 4. I-CORPS PROPOSALSQ What must be done before submitting a proposal for I-Corps?A The PI must obtain written permission to submit a proposal from a CognizantNSF program director.Q What is the maximum award size and duration of an I-Corps grant?A The $50,000 I-Corps grants will be for a period up to six months.Q How long will it take between proposal submission and a decision?A NSF expects for no more than 45 days to elapse between proposal submissionand decision. After the initial cycle, we expect to streamline the process and makethe time until a decision substantially shorter.Q How will I-Corps proposals be reviewed?A I-Corps proposals will be reviewed using the NSF RAPID mechanism. (See GPG.)Q What are the review criteria for I-Corps proposals?A All NSF proposals are evaluated through use of the two National Science Board(NSB)-approved merit review criteria: intellectual merit and the broader impacts ofthe proposed effort. In this instance, NSF will employ two additional criteria tohighlight the specific objectives of I-Corps: potential impact on market, and timehorizon to impact.Q Do NSF program directors have the expertise to evaluate business-relatedproposals from across all scientific fields?A All I-Corps program directors have experience in transforming technology andworking closely with academic labs in transforming technologyI-CORPS GRANTS AND RESULTSQ What will grantees do during the period of performance?A To determine the technology disposition, each team must commit to pursuing(through an online curriculum) a formal hypothesis-validation approach toidentifying any mitigating gaps in knowledge along the following seven lines: 1.
  5. 5. Value proposition of the proposed product or service 2. Customer/user use-caseand pain point 3. Demand creation 4. Channel development 5. Revenue model 6.Partnership strategy 7. Resource requirementQ Why was this approach chosen?A NSF recognizes that translating technology out of an academic laboratoryrequires different skill sets and knowledge than undertaking research does, andthat these skills and expertise are much more common in a start-up environmentthan an academic one. The process of developing and testing hypotheses aroundthese seven core areas represents the current state of the art in commercialopportunity recognition, and the process will systematically build the dexterity andunderstanding needed to ascertain technology disposition.Q What if the team finds at the end of the project that their potential commercialimpact is different from what they proposed?A NSF expects this to happen in most cases. This understanding represents asignificant value in and of itself.Q Is there any special reporting required?A NSF is creating an online platform to help teams track their progress. Moreinformation on this front will become available at How will the I-Corps program and project results/outcomes be evaluated?A NSF may examine data related to the number of entrepreneurial students; thenumber of start-ups and licenses; the degree of technology integration into existingbusinesses; the extent of further investments from other public and privatesources; and other innovation metrics.Q How long will it take for I-Corps projects to make an impact?A I-Corps projects with strong commercialization potential may make an impact inthree to five years. Time to commercialization is expected to be technology- andend-use sensitive.Q How will NSF protect intellectual property with respect to the mentors/others?A The researchers and mentors themselves will be responsible for working outintellectual property agreements.
  6. 6. Q How will NSF guard against conflicts of interest with respect to thementors/others?A Conflicts of interest will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis and will behandled between the grantee organization and the private party(ies).Q What is the next step for researchers who have successfully completed an I-Corps project?A Projects will culminate with clear understanding of what it will take to bring aparticular innovation to the marketplace. For those projects that are feasible,grantees will be ready to transfer the activity to the for-profit sector and pursuesupport for translational research from, for example, strategic partners, investors,and NSF programs for small businesses.I-CORPS PROGRAM OFFICERSThe cognizant program officers for I-Corps are:• Errol Arkilic, telephone: 703-292-8095, email:• Rathindra DasGupta, telephone: 703-292-8353, email:• Richard Voyles, telephone: 703-292-4541, email: