Entrepreneurship training available for researchers through NSF short course

September 22, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Academic researchers interested in exploring the commercial potential of their technological innovations are invited to apply to a free National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (NSF I-Corps) Virtual Short Course to be held Oct. 23 through Nov. 14.

Applications for the course are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2.

Up to 10 selected participants will receive entrepreneurship training and mentorship as they virtually “get out of the lab” and talk with customers to identify the best product-market fit for their research.

Teams that are accepted into the four-week I-Corps Virtual Short Course will receive a $3,000 travel/customer discovery grant from the Invent Penn State NSF I-Corps Site to continue their customer discovery. They also become eligible to apply for the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps National Teams Program, which includes a $50,000 grant. 

Fall 2020 Virtual Short Course Schedule

  • Session 1 — Workshop: Oct. 23, 4–7 p.m.
  • Session 2 — Workshop: Oct. 24, 9 a.m.–noon           
  • Session 3 — Customer discovery check-in: Oct. 29, 1 hour
  • Session 4 — Customer discovery check-in: Nov. 5, 1 hour
  • Session 5 — Workshop: Nov. 13, 4–7 pm
  • Session 6 — Presentation: Nov. 14, 9 a.m.–noon

The course kicks off with two workshops on Friday, Oct. 23, and Saturday, Oct. 24, with teams learning the Business Model Canvas, a hypothesis-testing methodology, and how to conduct effective customer discovery interviews to learn if there’s a market fit for their idea. The following three weeks, teams utilize resources like LinkedIn Premium (cost covered by NSF I-Corps grant) to talk to potential customers about their needs, with the goal of completing 30 customer discovery interviews. Sessions 3 and 4 happen in the middle of the customer discovery weeks, with teams attending one-hour video check-ins to share progress updates and receive coaching from the course instructors. The short course ends with Sessions 5 and 6, where teams present their findings, receive additional coaching, and learn about next steps with NSF I-Corps and other Penn State entrepreneurship programs. 

Applicants are expected to be available for all sessions via Zoom.


Faculty, staff, postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate student researchers from any Penn State campus who: 

  • Have a tech innovation in any STEM field and want to explore its commercialization potential. 
  • Are looking for $3,000 in grant funding to meet with 30 prospective customers (virtually) and explore modest prototyping of their idea. 
  • May want to apply for the NSF I-Corps National Teams Program and accompanying $50,000 grant. 
  • Wish to have NSF lineage conferred on their research lines and to become eligible for other NSF entrepreneurship-related grants. 

About Penn State’s NSF I-Corps Site

Penn State’s NSF I-Corps Site was initiated in 2017 and to date has delivered over 15 customer discovery boot camps and graduated over 60 startup teams from site programs.

Penn State received funding from the CARES Act to deliver two “Lean Startup” Virtual Short Courses, to be offered in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021.

The NSF I-Corps Short Course at Penn State is hosted by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research, the Office of Entrepreneurship and Commercialization, Invent Penn State, and the Penn State NSF I-Corps Site. 

Last Updated October 02, 2020