What is the NSF Innovation Corps Program and How Can Entrepreneurs Benefit From It?

By: Sharjeel Sohaib


Jan 10, 2022


News â€˘ Press Release â€˘ Riverside County

The National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) program is an experiential education program supported by the National Science Foundation. It helps researchers gain valuable insight into entrepreneurship, starting a business or industry requirements and challenges.

I-Corps provides the necessary training as well as funding to develop research and ideas into viable businesses. For instance, Cabrice Corporation, an I-Corps participant in 2016, is a maker of Carbide Carbon, a product that lowers device temperatures and dissipates heat away from product packaging. The I-Corps program helped Carbice refine its value proposition and conduct 10s of customer discovery interviews.

The startup later went on to raise $15 million in a Series A investment round led by Downing Ventures, a division of London-based investment management firm Downing LLP.

“I-Corps really helped us to refine our value proposition. 

Craig Green, Chief Technology Officer and Vice President of Engineering, Carbice Corporation.

Applying for the I-Corps Program

To apply for the program, researchers and entrepreneurs have to commit to all participation requirements for NSF I-Corps. To do so, they have to complete a local or regional I-Corps program and obtain a letter of support from a nominating institution.

In the case of the Inland Empire, University of California, Riverside (UCR) is a nominating institution.

EPIC Riverside’s Workshop on National Science Foundation I-Corps Program

The Entrepreneurial Proof of Concept and Innovation Center (EPIC) offers introductory training workshops to entrepreneurs within campus and the community as part of the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps program. It is named as “INNOVAR Workshops”.

Source: National Science Foundation, YouTube Channel

INNOVAR Workshops by UCR

The INNOVAR workshop is a quarterly program by UCR in which researchers can participate as a stepping stone for their I-Corps application.

The workshop utilizes the Lean Launchpad methodology to evaluate product-market fit for an idea, technology or product and determine if it has market potential. Taken as a tool to figure out the commercialization route of your startup, this program has the following component parts:

  • Dedicated Mentorship
  • Idea Pitching Practice
  • Network Expansion
  • Access to Funding

Benefits of Attending Regional I-Corps Programs

UCR explains the program benefits as:

  • The possibility to apply to the National NSF I-Corps program ($50,000 grant)
  • Preferred application for a Proof Of Concept Grant (up to $35,000) available to UCR Faculty
  • Better chances of success when submitting SBIR/STTR Grants (up to $225,000 for Phase I and $1.5M for Phase II)
  • Access to ExCITE Incubator Residency if appropriate
  • Ongoing mentoring through EPIC SBDC
  • Access to Wet Lab Incubator Residency if appropriate

NSF i-Corps Point of Contact in UCR

Jay Gillberg, Lead Instructor, INNOVAR Workshops, is the main point of contact and liaison for NSF’s I-Corps program in the Inland Empire. He can be rached out at

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  • Avatar Of Sharjeel

    Sharjeel joined Startempire Wire as emerging technologies editor. Earlier, he worked at Silicon Canals, a leading English language technology media source for the Benelux and wider Europe. He covered the European technology and startup ecosystem digging into latest funding rounds of startups.


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