NSF I-Corps Site at MSU

Turn your research-based innovation into a spinout company

The National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps Site program provides training to learn the fundamentals of building business models, along with travel funds, and access to follow-on grants from the NSF in excess of $1M.

The program is open to all students, faculty, researchers and staff at the university. We work with teams of researchers interested in bringing their research innovations to market. Topics for I-Corps Teams originate from research — both sponsored and unsponsored. The E-Center provides infrastructure, advice, resources, networking opportunities, training, and modest funding to enable I-Corps teams to do early customer evaluation in preparation for the national I-Corps Teams program.

Upon the successful completion of I-Corps Sites, the E-Center may recommend teams to the national NSF I-Corps Team program. The national I-Corps Team program includes an intensive six-week customer discovery bootcamp, along with a $50,000 grant. Participation in the MSU I-Corps Site provides requisite NSF lineage.


Learn What it Takes to be an Entrepreneur

The I-Corps Sites program helps you understand important considerations for researchers who are interested in entrepreneurship.

Explore the Commercial Potential of your Research

Learn how to assess your own research for market potential using the NSF I-Corps program curriculum and the customer development model created by Steve Blank. A key component is getting out of the building and learning from potential customers. By completing a handful of customer discovery interviews, you will have a better understanding of the potential for turning your research innovations into a startup.

Travel Funds for Customer Discovery

Through the NSF, Mississippi State will provide you up to $3,000 in travel funding to learn from potential customers. We ask our projects to first demonstrate product-market-fit before launching a company or even building a first prototype. This is done through a series of one-on-one interviews with potential customers. All I-Corps Sites teams are expected to conduct 30 customer interviews. To help accomplish this, we will reimburse teams accepted into the program for travel. You can use the travel funds to visit customers or attend industry trade shows.

Increase your Odds for Additional NSF Grant Money

The NSF provides up to $1.5M in grant funding for research-based startups. Participants in the national NSF I-Corps program are 3x more likely to be successful in follow-on funding opportunities, and participation in the I-Corps Site program provides valuable NSF grant lineage for these and other NSF opportunities.

Five workshops over a three-week period

Based on the Lean Launchpad developed at Stanford University, the MSU I-Corps Site training is taught by experienced, venture-backed entrepreneurs who will work with you to understand your business opportunity.

Training Details:

  1. Required 1-hr workshops covers:
    1. Business Model Canvas
    2. Developing Value Propositions
    3. Understanding Customer Segments
    4. How to Conduct Customer Interviews
    5. Crafting a Business Story
  2. During the training, teams are expected to interview 20-30 people. You will be given numerous tools.
  3. Teams will give a final presentation to the program team and be given guidance for applying to the national I-Corps Teams program or other NSF funding opportunities.

Up to $3,000 of travel funds authorized immediately

Upon acceptance to the I-Corps Site program, you will have immediate access to money to use for customer discovery.

Use of Award Money:

  1. Attending tradeshows, expos or other large gathering of people who could fit your customer segment.
  2. Limited materials and supply costs which can be charged on an MSU Procard may be approved to enable more effective customer discovery.
  3. In general, the I-Corps Site award may not be used for personnel or prototyping. Ask our program team how we may be able to support those needs with other programs.

Spending Funds:

  1. Accepted I-Corps Site teams will be given a banner account number.
  2. Travel will be handled through the faculty member’s home department using the provided banner number, and forms will need to be routed through the E-Center for secondary approval prior to travel.
  3. Other expenses may be made using the faculty’s home department procurement card and charged to the provided banner number.

Participants and Eligibility

I-Corps Site Teams requires a minimum of two members, one of which must be employed by MSU, and no more than four. The participants fall into the following roles:

Entrepreneurial Lead (EL)

The Entrepreneurial Lead is the primary team member who possesses relevant technical knowledge and a deep commitment to investigate the commercial landscape surrounding the innovation.

  • Typically a graduate student or a technically-advanced undergraduate student
  • Carries the bulk of the workload
  • Interested in becoming or better understanding what an entrepreneur does

Technical or Academic Lead (TL)

The Technical Lead is a faculty member, or co-inventor designated by faculty member, who serves as a technical advisor and overall project manager.

  • Typically a MSU faculty member or researcher
  • Deep level understanding of the technology
  • Willing to encourage and promote the Entrepreneurial Lead

Upcoming Cohorts

Spring 2023 – MSU I-Corps Accelerated Cohort

Starkville, MS – 101 McCool Hall

Day 1:  Mon, May 1st – 4:00 – 5:00 pm
Day 2: Weds, May 3rd – 4:00 – 5:00 pm
Day 3: Mon, May 8th – 4:00 – 5:00 pm

Summer 2023 – MSU I-Corps Accelerated Cohort

Starkville, MS – 101 McCool Hall

Day 1:  Mon, Jul 17th – 4:00 – 5:00 pm
Day 2: Weds, Jul 19th – 4:00 – 5:00 pm
Day 3: Mon, Jul 24th – 4:00 – 5:00 pm

Summer 2023 – MSU I-Corps Accelerated Cohort

Vicksburg, MS – MCITy

Day 1:  TBD
Day 2: TBD
Day 3: TBD