Penn I-Corps

An NSF-funded program for developing faculty and student startups

Through a grant from NSF, the I-Corps program works with Penn faculty, staff, post-docs, and students to test and validate startup ideas through Customer Discovery. 

Participants learn valuable skills in connecting with customers, asking the right questions, and how to find partners to help get startup ideas off the ground. Plus, qualifying teams will be recommended to apply for the National I-Corps Program

Penn I-Corps Logo 

Applications for the Spring 2024 are now open.

To learn more and meet potential teammates, sign up for an upcoming info session. For more information or to request an extension contact the I-Corps program manager, Dr. Tomás Isakowitz.

I-Corps Overview

The Penn I-Corps program will help you:

  • Better understand why technology has value and to whom.
  • Explore taking new technology to the marketplace
  • Completing the program puts your team in an excellent position to apply to the National I-Corps Program  — where you’ll have $50,000 in support to conduct customer discovery.
  • Increase chances of receiving an SBIR/STTR award



Other Benefits

  • Participation in PCI events that expose you to key stakeholders and funders in the entrepreneurship community
  • Mentors to guide you going forward
  • Support for applying to follow-on programs
  • Exposure to the Philadelphia startup ecosystem

Each I-Corps program comprises a workshop on customer discovery, where teams complete 20 customer interviews. The program is free and does not require current/prior NSF funding to participate. We offer workshops in the Fall and Spring semesters.

The key requirements are:

Team composition: two or more team members, all actively affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania (faculty, students, post-docs, alumni graduated within the past year)

Technology area: revolving around fundamental discoveries in science and engineering

Intellectual Property: developed by a team member as part of research or classwork at Penn

Participants should have:

Enthusiasm to engage in learning about primary market research

A commitment to attend all sessions and complete assignments, including conducting 20 interviews.

An established record in following through complex endeavors

Demonstrated ability to work well with others

Apply Now

How Does It Work?

We accept participants on a rolling basis for either the fall or spring program. We help you de-risk your idea to move it forward quickly and find answers to:

  • Who are my customers?
  • Do they care about the problem or need I am addressing?
  • Does my solution fit their needs?

For an in-depth discussion of Penn I-Corps, see I-Corps as a Training Tool for New Technology Development.

I-Corps by the Numbers


Teams Since 2015


Funds Raised by Teams


Teams Participated in National I-Corps


Funded Teams

Support & Sponsors

The Penn I-Corps Site is an NSF program designed to facilitate the commercialization of university research. The program is housed at the Penn Center for Innovation (PCI). It was established in 2015.

Penn I-Corps is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number IIP2044502

I-Corps is currently sponsored by Pearl Cohen. Our first corporate sponsor was PwC.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Recent News

All I-Corps Posts

Upcoming Events

All Events

AI Nexus: Shaping Tomorrow’s Intelligence

May 08 @ 8:30 am

More Info

PCI Open Office Hours at Penn Engineering

May 09 @ 11:00 am

More Info

Leading Life Sciences: Exploring Growth in Greater Philadelphia

May 09 @ 4:00 pm

More Info

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