Fostering STEM Innovation
In 2014, the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation launched the Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program to empower UChicago scientists, researchers, and students to test the commercial potential of their research and ideas. Supported with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and run by the Polsky Center, the I-Corps program is specifically designed for participants working on projects related to the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. Participants are not required to have previous experience in business or entrepreneurship in order to be accepted into the I-Corps program.
I-Corps is a highly-experiential, extracurricular seven-week-long program. Each team will receive a National Science Foundation (NSF) micro grant for their participation in the program. Participants are expected to dedicate an average of 4-7 hours per week to the following program activities and requirements.
- Attend Four Educational Sessions: At least two members of each I-Corps team are required to attend four educational sessions, which are held in-person or virtually depending on the cohort. The fall and spring sessions will be held in-person and the summer sessions will be conducted virtually. These sessions consist of lectures, team presentations, and visits from guest speakers. In addition, these sessions provide time to foster team discussion, group work, and networking with other cohort members, speakers, and mentors.
- Complete Homework Assignments: To prepare for each classroom session, participants are expected to complete video and reading assignments in order to become more familiar with entrepreneurial topics discussed in class. All required reading materials will be provided by the Polsky Center and will be distributed before the first session.
- Conduct 30 Interviews: In order to better understand the commercial potential of their ideas, teams will test their assumptions by conducting interviews with industry experts and potential “customers.” Outside of class, each team will conduct a minimum of 30 in-person or video interviews over the course of the seven-week program. Participants are not expected to have any prior experience in conducting interviews. All participants will be trained and learn best practices for how to conduct stakeholder interviews as part of the I-Corps program.
- Expand your network and gain insight from industry stakeholders on the commercialization pathway
- Identify potential partners for future technical and business development
- Receive individualized coaching
- Access additional NSF funding, including $50,000 through the National I-Corps program
- Prepare to apply for SBIR/STTR or other commercialization grants
- Participate in follow-on programs and support from the Polsky Center
Use of Funds
Each I-Corps team will receive a micro grant. Grants are available for six months from the beginning of the each cohort and may be used to support various entrepreneurial activities related to the program, including:
- Defray the travel costs of entrepreneurial interviews, including taxi fare, airline tickets, and hotel stays
- Attend conferences
- Purchase educational materials or attend other educational programs
- Purchase software to support customer discovery interviews (i.e. LinkedIn Premium)
Funding may not be used to pay for business services (i.e., legal, accounting, etc.), to purchase electronic equipment, or to pay third-party service providers. The Polsky Center will work with participants to identify appropriate uses of program funding.