300 Teams in Two Years

This is the start of the third year teaching teams of scientists (professors and their graduate students) in the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (I-Corps). This month we’ve crossed ~300 teams in the first two years through the program.

I-Corps is the  accelerator that helps scientists bridge the commercialization gap between their research in their labs and wide-scale commercial adoption and use.

I-Corps bridges the gap between public support of basic science and private capital funding of new commercial ventures. It’s a model for a government program that’s gotten the balance between public/private partnerships just right.

While a few of the I-Corps teams are in web/mobile/cloud, most are working on advanced technology projects that don’t make TechCrunch. You’re more likely to see their papers (in material science, robotics, diagnostics, medical devices, computer hardware, etc.) in Science or Nature. The program pays scientists $50,000 to attend the program and takes no equity.

Currently there are 11 U.S. universities teaching the Lean LaunchPad curriculum organized as I-Corps “nodes” across the U.S.  The nodes are now offering their own regional versions of the Lean LaunchPad class under I-Corps.

The NSF I-Corps uses everything we know about building Lean Startups and Evidence-based Entrepreneurship to connect innovation to entrepreneurship. It’s curriculum is built on a framework of business model design, customer development and agile engineering – and its emphasis on evidence, Lessons Learned versus demos, makes it the worlds most advanced accelerator. It’s success is measured not only by the technologies that leave the labs, but how many U.S. scientists and engineers we train as entrepreneurs and how many of them pass on their knowledge to students. I-Corps is our secret weapon to integrate American innovation and entrepreneurship into every U.S. university lab.

Every time I go to Washington and spend time at the National Science Foundation or National Institute of Health I’m reminded why the U.S. leads the world in support of basic and applied science.  It’s not just the money we pour into these programs (~$125 billion/year), but the people who have dedicated themselves to make the world a better place by advancing science and technology for the common good.

I thought it was worth sharing the progress report from the Bay Area (Berkeley, Stanford, UCSF) I-Corps node so you can see what just one of the nodes was accomplishing. Multiply this by the NSF regional nodes across the U.S. and you’ll have a feeling for the scale and breadth of the program.

If you can’t see the presentation above click here

Glad to a part of it.

Lessons Learned

  • The U.S. government has built an accelerator for scientists and engineers
  • It’s scaled across the U.S.
  • The program has taught ~300 teams
  • Balance between public/private partnerships

Listen to the podcast here Download the podcast here
BTW, NCIIA is offering other accelerators and incubators a class to learn how to build their own versions of I-Corps here.

7 Responses

  1. Congratulations

  2. Awesome successes! Congratulations to you and your participants. Wishing you many more advancements in your strides contributing to a better America.

  3. Congrats, Steve! By the way, do you have any data yet about the success, not of your program, but of your students? Has anyone launched a company that is now cash-flow positive and, preferably, profitable?

    • Lee,
      Great questions.

      The NSF tracks the results of the companies, but my guess is that given the first 25 teams went through the program just 24 months ago, it might be a bit too early for many (if any) to be cash-flow positive and profitable.

      However, I believe that a team from Caltech in the March 2012 cohort has already sold their company.


  4. Steve, I agree about your US strenght ( 125 billion a Year…huge amount) to make top science in US…but another great strenght is the capability of the system to give chance and attract scientists – the best- from the World…we see from Silicon Valley how the mix of races can change the World…I do think that this is a real model to be pushed ( Attraction of Talent) I push Italian Gov.nt to make program&conditions for that in Italy…wouldn’t anybody run to make top science in Italy? we have one of the top starting point in the World…don’t you think?
    hope to see you soon

  5. Hi Steve

    I am thankful to all your posts and the audio of that. It is like doing my private MBA on Modern Entrepreneurship, I am your external student – in India. Please Please Please give me frequent lessons through your posts, I can not wait more then a week for it. When it is not there for even one week I am really missing it. And i am little bit disappointed whenever a post comes to say what has happened without contents for learning.


  6. Here is a recent TED talk by Mariana Mazzucato entitled “Government — investor, risk-taker, innovator” . She points out that a great deal of innovation comes out of government funded research and she thinks that the government should get an equity stake when the research it funded gets commercialized.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: