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I-Corps Midwest Program

I-Corps Introduction to Customer Discovery (ICD) for Nanotechnology offers a curriculum and specific methodology to help teams of participating researchers discover the commercial potential of their technology. This will be accomplished by learning how to build a business model, talking to customers and gaining insight from experienced leaders.  The Introduction to Customer Discovery course is a program that captures the foundation of the NSF I-Corps program so that teams may be better equipped to go on to the National program.  It’s not about how to write a research paper, business plan or NSF grant. The entire team will be engaged by getting out of the lab/building and discovering the value of their technology.  Along the way National I-Corps instructors will be guiding the teams through the course but the bulk of the work must come from engaging with real customers.

Program Dates

Pre-Program Webinar          March 18
Kick-Off Sessions                   March 31 - April 1

Weekly madatory coaching sessions will be held during the weeks of April 4-8 and April 11-15

Closing Session                     April 22

Who Should Participate?

University Researchers:
Post-Doctoral and Graduate (PhD) Researchers
Industry/Entrepreneur Mentors

Why Participate


  1. Experience an opportunity to explore the real-world impact of your research
  2. Connect with a large group of researchers from many disciplines aligned around the nanotechnology domain
  3. Increase your professional and personal network with people outside the university setting including industry, entrepreneurial, government and economic development professionals
  4. Achieve greater probability of future grant success.
  5. This program qualifies you for participation in the NSF National I-Corps Program with $50K grant funding
  6. Learn from an experienced teaching and support team from the NSF National I-Corps program
  7. Learn the language and skills of business
  8. Increased consulting and collaborative opportunities

Grad Students and Post-Docs

All of the Above PLUS!
  9.  Become more employable in industry, government or university settings
10.  Explore an entrepreneurial career path
11.  Develop your communication skills towards non-technical audiences

Program Details

Cost of Program
There is no fee to participate in the program and your home institution may provide grants to reimburse teams for travel associated with customer discovery. (Contact us for more information). On-site meals and all materials will be provided.

Time Commitment

Approx. 8 hours per week

  • Pre-training webinar and preparation (March 13-18)
  • On-site workshops (March 31 - April 1, and April 22)
  • Weekly viewing of online instruction videos
  • Weekly coaching sessions with instructors
  • 5-10 Customer Discovery Interviews each week

Participant Responsibilities

Once accepted into the program, you will be required to participate in the following:

  • Attend the pre-program webinar
  • Attend the two-day on-site kickoff event
  • Attend two coaching sessionsduring the intermediary weeks
  • Attend the one-day closing event
  • Complete all customer discovery and market research tasks

Team Formation

Three roles comprise the teams for Introduction to Customer Discovery (ICD):

  1. Entrepreneurial Lead (EL)
    A grad student or post-doc with relevant knowledge of the technology and a deep commitment to investigate the commercial landscape surrounding the innovation.
  2. Principal Investigator (PI)
    Faculty researcher who has obtained the initial grant or other support that enabled the technology to advance.
  3. Industry Mentor (IM) – Optional but strongly encouraged
    An experienced entrepreneur with startup or other experience in transitioning technology out of the lab and into the marketplace.

Technology Areas of Interest