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National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (NSF I-Corps) Sites Program

The Horn Program in Entrepreneurship invites applications to UD’s NSF I-Corps Sites Program. The I-Corps Sites Program provides specialized training and mini grants of $3,000 to teams interested in exploring the commercial viability of their ideas for products and businesses that are based on their own inventions, University intellectual property, or any STEM-related technology. Ideas based on behavioral and health science will also be considered. Accepted teams are also eligible to gain full access to the Horn Program's Venture Development Center and its resources through the VentureOn program.

Top Reasons to Participate

There are at least 3,000 reasons to participate but the top three reasons are:

  1. Participation gives you the best chance to make a real world impact with your scientific invention by turning it into an innovation that provides value to the world
  2. Participation will immerse you in a state of the art, lean startup-based training program that has demonstrated advantages over traditional methods for bringing new technologies into the marketplace.
  3. Participation will result in many new connections and open doors for follow-on opportunities.

Request for Applications (RFA)

UD’s NSF I-Corps Sites Program is soliciting applications for its fifth and sixth cohorts.

RFA 2016: Application Deadline - 5:00 p.m. on Monday, April 11, 2016

Training Program

UD’s NSF I-Corps Sites training program consists of a series of four/five workshop sessions aimed at introducing teams to lean startup methodology and guiding them through the initial phase of customer discovery research – problem, customer, and value proposition validation. Training sessions involve extensive hands-on work by team members; therefore, all members are expected to plan to attend the training sessions.

The training program is modeled after the Lean LaunchPad (LLP) curriculum, which was developed by serial entrepreneur and educator Steve Blank. The basic components of the LLP curriculum are widely utilized by technology entrepreneurs in leading startup communities, endorsed by the National Science Foundation, and taught by many leading providers of entrepreneurial education, including UD’s Horn Program in Entrepreneurship. Training sessions are guided by an experienced instructional team, including Dan Freeman and Vince DiFelice.

Mini Grants

$3,000 awards are granted to support team-based customer discovery research aimed at investigating the commercial viability of a product idea or a specific market application of a novel process, device, or other technology. Award funding can be used to support any expenses related to customer discovery research, including prototyping costs. Legal expenses are not permitted. Teams will have a period of up to 3 months to spend their awards, beginning on the date of their first training session.


Project teams will typically consist of an entrepreneurial lead and an academic lead. The entrepreneurial lead could be an undergraduate student, graduate student, post-doctoral scholar, or staff member with relevant knowledge of the technology or market and a deep commitment to investigate the potential opportunity for commercialization. The role of the entrepreneurial lead is to drive the customer discovery process and support the transition of the technology into the marketplace if it demonstrates commercial viability. The academic lead will often have been involved in creating the STEM-related technology that forms the basis of the team’s business concept or possess a high level of relevant technical expertise. The role of the academic lead will be overall project management.

Project teams may also include additional members and an external mentor. Additional team members will typically be students. The external mentor will typically be an experienced or emerging entrepreneur who serves as a third party resource. The role of the mentor will be to guide the team forward and track progress. Teams choosing to apply without designating an external mentor will be assigned one for the duration of the training program.

Application and Award Process

The application and award process are detailed in the Request for Applications (RFA 2016).

Review Team & Award Criteria

All applications are reviewed by an interdisciplinary team, which includes Dan Freeman, Vince DiFelice, Yushan Yan and Jeannie Stephens.

Priority scoring based on team commitment, team quality and commercial potential will be used to select teams for awards. In general 5-8 awards will be made per cohort during a review cycle.

Our Goals

UD's NSF I-Corps Sites Program has three primary goals:

  1. Maximize research impact by facilitating the translation of laboratory science into the marketplace.
  2. Open pathways and increase success rates for teams pursuing follow on opportunities such as the NSF I-Corps Teams Program, which provides $50K per team for further training and customer discovery research, and SBIR grants.
  3. Provide participants with an outstanding training program that will give them generalizable skills through the investigation of the commercial viability of a specific STEM-related or behavorial/health-science-related idea.


Please email hornprogram@udel.edu with any questions about the UD NSF I-Corps Site Program. Please specify I-Corps Sites Program in the subject line.

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