This spring, 23 teams from across the country with potential science-based startup ideas participated in a new model of the National Science Foundation’s Innovation-Corps program (NSF I-Corps) in Indianapolis. Mentors were recruited from 10 Midwest universities to guide the teams through the rigorous customer discovery program. Since the mentors came with extensive entrepreneurship and I-Corps experience, they were able to more effectively help the teams interview industry partners and learn what it will take to achieve a commercial impact with their innovation.


The NSF I-Corps program prepares scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the university laboratory, and accelerates the economic and societal benefits of NSF-funded, basic-research projects that are ready to move toward commercialization. Through I-Corps, NSF grantees learn to identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from academic research, and gain skills in entrepreneurship through training in customer discovery and guidance from established entrepreneurs.


The Midwest I-Corps Node, a collaboration between the University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Purdue University, and the University of Toledo, is one of seven university clusters across the country selected to pilot the mentor pilot program. The Midwest I-Corps Node was the first to pilot this model, and other I-Corps Nodes will be testing various iterations to find the best way of supporting these teams.


Click here to learn more about the Midwest I-Corps Node (MWIN).

Click here to learn more about the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps).

Looking to get involved? Contact Lora Stevens at