Polsky Center I-Corps

Polsky Center I-Corps


Supported by funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program is designed to empower scientists, researchers, and students to test the commercial potential and impact of their research and ideas. Through highly-experiential learning at the local and national levels, I-Corps teams learn how to assess “technology-problem fit,” the first critical step in the commercialization process.

I-Corps can help identify and address real-world problems in seven weeks – work that might otherwise take months or years. With I-Corps, teams are 60% more likely to receive follow-on funding, such as an SBIR grant.

The Polsky Center’s I-Corps program is offered through partnership with the Great Lakes Region I-Corps Hub and includes the following components:

  • Attend Five Educational Sessions: At least two members of each I-Corps team are required to attend five educational sessions, which are held in person at Chicago Booth’s Harper Center in Hyde Park. 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. Virtual participation is available on a case-by-case basis.
  • Conduct 15-20 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 15-20 in-person or video interviews throughout the eight-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.
  • Receive NSF Grant Funding: Each team is eligible to receive up to $1,500 in funding from the NSF to support their customer discovery efforts, including travel for conferences, educational materials, prototyping supplies, and other tools for engaging in interviews.
  • 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.

For Polsky I-Corps, each team is required to have at least two team members who can commit at least 5-8 hours per week to program activities.

Program Benefits

  • 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
  • Become eligible for the National I-Corps program, including up to $50,000 in grant funding
  • Prepare to apply for SBIR/STTR or other commercialization grants
  • Participate in follow-on programs and support from the Polsky Center

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