National Science Foundation Innovation Corps
In 2011 the National Science Foundation (NSF) developed the Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program to move academic research it has funded to market. NSF I-Corps assists academic researchers and their early-stage companies in honing their business model, identifying their target customer, and determining if the company has a technology with a good market fit. DRACO has mentored several companies through the application process and assisted them in crafting successful proposals. The I-Corps program is an intense 6-week curriculum during which the team must conduct 100 in-person interviews with prospective customers. Each week the team meets with their assigned NSF mentors to discuss interviewee feedback and potential new directions. Successful I-Corps cohort teams are able to demonstrate team synergy and flexibility as well as efficient data management.
Teams typically consist of one or two students acting as Entrepreneurial Leads, a Technical Lead or Principle Investigator, and an Industry Mentor. The Technical Lead is often the inventor of the technology, their role is to provide technical insight. The Industry Mentor is often a seasoned business professional who knows how to evaluate a market and launch a product. The most effective industry mentors bring a robust network of contacts to assist the team in establishing customer interviews.
- Entrepreneurial Lead – DRACO can promote an open position for your I-Corps Team, interview prospective students, and prepare them for the challenging and rewarding experience of being on an I-Corps Team. The teams we have been involved with have seen success by including a STEM student and a business student.
- Industry Mentor – DRACO can reach out to our extensive network of collaborators, business and technical advisors, and clients to help find the right mentor for your team.
- DRACO Partnership – By partnering with DRACO, we ensure the best possible team synergy by coaching and training the student entrepreneurial leads, leading team meetings, and using our proven method of pre-I-Corps team preparation.
One of the most important goals of an I-Corps team is efficient data management. Effective data management includes a plan for collection, processing, analysis, interpretation, and display. By partnering with DRACO we can assist your team with the mindset and skills to build a powerful data management platform for success in the I-Corps program. Our goal is to provide useful insight and guidance before, during, and after participation in the I-Corps program. Therefore, DRACO will prepare a comprehensive report including business and technical development milestones, a market overview, a summary of customer discovery data, and relevant funding opportunities to position your company for continued success.