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I-Corps at ARPA-E

Overview

In 2012, ARPA-E and the National Science Foundation (NSF) entered into an agreement to have ARPA-E project teams participate in the national “Innovation Corps” (I-Corps) program, with several ARPA-E awardees successfully completing the I-Corps program in early 2013.  Through a Memorandum of Understanding between the two agencies, the partnership between ARPA-E and NSF, known as “I-Corps @ ARPA-E”, has been extended. 

I-Corps is an intensive, structured, and curriculum-based program designed to educate early stage technology developers on business model development and the value of customer discovery.  Based on a special, accelerated version of serial entrepreneur Steve Blank’s Lean LaunchPad course, I-Corps ultimate goal is to foster the commercialization of government-funded technology research. 

Team Structure

Consistent with NSF’s guidelines, candidate “I-Corps @ ARPA-E” teams are comprised of three members:

  • Principal Investigator, serving as the technical lead and expert;
  • Entrepreneurial Lead, typically a postdoctoral researcher or graduate student committed to understanding the commercial applicability around the technology;
  • Mentor, typically someone with a combination of industry, business, and entrepreneurial experience.

Note that the "I-Corps @ ARPA-E" opportunity is open to ARPA-E projects with academic lineage (i.e. university or national laboratory award recipients).

Application Process

Interested ARPA-E teams should have an initial discussion with the project’s ARPA-E Program Director and Technology-to-Market Advisor on whether it would be appropriate to apply for participation in “I-Corps @ ARPA-E”.  Important considerations for ARPA-E teams include timing of upcoming ARPA-E award milestones, technical progress to-date, and potential team structure(s). 

Each candidate “I-Corps @ ARPA-E” team must undergo an application and joint interview process with both ARPA-E and NSF representatives in order to be selected for participation in the I-Corps™ program.  To be selected as an "I-Corps @ ARPA-E" team, the application steps are as follows:

  1.  Submission of a one-page Executive Summary to your Technology-to-Market Advisor;
  2.  Preliminary phone screening/interview with representatives from ARPA-E Technology-to-Market team;
  3.  Secondary joint phone screening/interview with both ARPA-E and NSF representatives;
  4.  If selected, submission of a five-page Full Proposal to designated ARPA-E point of contact.

After “I-Corps @ ARPA-E” teams are selected, ARPA-E will work with project teams to complete a contract modification to ensure availability of funds to participate (see Part V. of Full Proposal).

Cohort Timing

The national I-Corps program conducts cohorts four times a year, and approximate cohort dates are as follows:

  • Fall: Mid-October through late November or early December;
  • Winter: Mid-January through late February;
  • Spring: Mid-April through late May;
  • Summer: Mid-July through late August or early September.

Submissions of Executive Summaries are encouraged at any time. Note that all final interviews are planned to be completed at least a month and a half in advance of cohort start dates, so please keep in mind when deciding when to apply for "I-Corps @ ARPA-E."

More information on the national I-Corps program can be found on the NSF website:

Regional I-Corps™ Nodes

In addition to the national I-Corps program, NSF also has regional I-Corps nodes, taking place within local ecosystems across the country.  ARPA-E projects can find out more information on how to get involved with the regional nodes at their websites below:

Additional Information

For additional information on NSF’s I-Corps program, please visit: