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Innovation Programs

In 2012, U-M CFE was selected by the National Science Foundation as one of the first two universities to offer the I-Corps™ program. In 2017, U-M CFE led the formation of an alliance called the Midwest I-Corps Node (MWIN) with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Purdue University and the University of Toledo. The Node serves as the Midwest hub for education, infrastructure, and research. From one-on-one mentoring in ideation to full de-risking and funding support, we have a nationally-recognized staff of instructors, trainers, and mentors that make the transition from lab to market a smooth, efficient, and valuable process for participants. 

The Introduction to Customer Discovery course is a taste of the Lean LaunchPad method to give early-stage technologists a working knowledge of how to think about their opportunity from a business and customer perspective, as well as how to properly conduct customer discovery interviews; the first step in any commercialization process. This course covers the two main concepts in NSF I-CorpsTM: value propositions and customer segments. This course provides technologists with a set of skills and entrepreneurial knowledge that can be applied to any career path.


Industry Connect events leverage existing industry tradeshows/conferences in specific, and relevant industries including (not exhaustive): Agriculture, Mobility, Internet of Things, Big Data, Defense, Energy, and Healthcare. This program lends teams the opportunity to introduce themselves, pitch their idea to technology decision makers, setup follow-on meetings, acquire feedback on their best path forward, and identify key milestones. This unique program gives teams the opportunity to connect with like-minded innovators across the Midwest.


This program is designed to prepare scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and to accelerate the transfer of cutting-edge, NSF-funded research into commercial success. Through extensive customer engagement, teams are able to validate the sustainability of their technology. The curriculum is an immersive 7-week program designed to avoid building a product that no one wants; the number one reason startups fail.