Penn State’s NSF I-Corps program seeks applications by Sept. 15 and Oct. 15

Participants in Invent Penn State I-Corps Site program receive entrepreneurship training and become eligible for national I-Corps program with awards of up to $50,000
Credit: Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The National Science Foundation has joined in supporting Penn State’s goal of taking more of its discoveries to market by awarding Penn State a five-year, $500,000 Innovation Corps (I-Corps) grant to establish the Invent Penn State I-Corps Site in collaboration with Ben Franklin Technology Partner’s TechCelerator, Happy Valley LaunchBox, and Invent Penn State’s Innovation Hubs

The Invent Penn State I-Corps Site will provide mini-grants, commercialization training and mentorship for up to 30 startup teams per year. These training boot camps will help inventors begin customer discovery, learn about the commercialization process, network with experienced entrepreneurs, and determine if a market exists for their innovation. The benefits of participation are numerous.

Selected teams will:

  • receive a mini-grant of up to $2,500, which can be used to attend industry trade shows, visit potential customers, develop prototypes, and cover customer discovery expenses;
  • have a dedicated mentor who meets with teams to provide business expertise, advice on pitch development, funding strategies, and help grow a network of contacts;
  • have opportunities to showcase their new venture at the Invent Penn State Venture & IP Conference on April 19-20, 2018;
  • become eligible to apply for an I-Corps National Teams $50,000 grant award. (This is an alternate National Teams eligibility path for PI’s who have not previously received NSF funding); and
  • qualify for an increasing number of NSF grant awards that require NSF I-Corps training as a criteria for eligibility.

Faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students, recent alumni and community members interested in exploring the commercial viability of their idea or innovation can apply to any one of a number of established boot camps based on the lean startup and customer discovery methods endorsed by NSF I-Corps.   

At University Park, eligible teams can apply to one of two qualified programs for fall 2017:

Ben Franklin Technology Partner’s TechCelerator program   
Located in Innovation Park, TechCelerator specializes in commercialization support for faculty research-derived technologies in complex, often regulated, markets. Fall applications are due Sept. 15, 2017.

Happy Valley LaunchBox FastTrack Accelerator   
Located on Allen Street in downtown State College, Happy Valley LaunchBox specializes in support for early-stage, scalable startups focused on emerging markets, digital innovations or novel business models. Fall applications are due Oct. 15, 2017.

At Penn State Altoona, eligible teams can apply to:

Altoona LaunchBox 8-week Training Program   
Located in the heart of downtown Altoona, LaunchBox engages future business owners and local entrepreneurs to explore their startup business ideas and get feedback on challenges they face.

These I-Corps programs are grounded in the same customer discovery-focused philosophy taught at the Penn State Clinical & Translational Research Institute’s Innovations Program, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.  


  • Penn State faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students, staff and recent alumni are eligible to apply.
  • Eligible projects must be in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) discipline.
  • Teams should have three persons:
  • An academic lead who will serve as principal investigator (PI) — typically a Penn State faculty or staff member
  • An entrepreneurial lead — a student, faculty/staff, recent alumni or community member
  • A business mentor — to provide experienced perspectives to the team; mentors will be assigned if needed.
  • Teams must commit to attending required workshops and cohort meetings. Check program details for more information on the associated time commitment.
  • Teams must perform a minimum of 30 customer interviews by the end of the program. 


Contact James Delattre at [email protected] for questions on eligibility or award details. Penn State Commonwealth Campuses interested in participating in the 2018-19 Invent Penn State I-Corps Site expansion should contact Rick Brazier at [email protected].  

About Invent Penn State

Invent Penn State is a Commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation and student career success. Invent Penn State blends entrepreneurship-focused academic programs, business startup training and incubation, funding for commercialization, and University-community collaborations to facilitate the challenging process of turning research discoveries into valuable products and services that benefit Pennsylvanians and humankind. Connect at