The National Science Foundation (NSF) seeks to develop and nurture a national innovation ecosystem that builds upon fundamental research to guide the output of scientific discoveries closer to the development of technologies, products and processes that benefit society.

The National Science Foundation plans to build upon the I-Corps program and establish a National Innovation Network comprised of I-Corps Regional Nodes that will support the needs for innovation research and education. NSF is seeking to build a network of regional nodes that will work cooperatively to establish, utilize and sustain a national innovation ecosystem that further enhances the development of technologies, products and processes that benefit society. The interconnected nodes of this network may be diverse in research areas, resources, tools, programs, capabilities, and in geographic locations – while the network will have the flexibility to grow or reconfigure as needs arise. I-Corps Regional Nodes will foster understanding on how to: 1) identify, develop and support promising ideas that can generate value, 2) create and implement tools and resources that enhance our nation’s innovation capacity, 3) gather, analyze, evaluate and utilize the data and insight resulting from the experiences of those participating in the I-Corps program and 4) share and leverage effective innovation practices on a national scale – to improve the quality of life for the U.S. citizenry.


I-Corps Regional Nodes must contribute to the National Innovation Network in the following three ways:

Level 1 Contribution – I-Corps Regional Training:

Nodes will demonstrate the capacity to deliver an innovation-enhancing training program based on the hypothesis/validation “Customer Development” curriculum used to support NSF I-Corps teams (

The training will be offered at least once a year to institutions’ research/academic community across disciplines. The selection and makeup of the participating teams will be coordinated by the I-Corps Regional Node and may include students, faculty, researchers and other local and regional stakeholders. The instructor team must consist of at least three trainers. In addition to the instructors, at least three members from the local investment community must be identified as potential volunteers for the training. When an I-Corps Regional Node award is made, the instructor-team will be required to participate in at least one NSF I-Corps cohort, delivered at an existing I-Corps Node, prior to delivering the training at their own site.

It is expected that assessment and evaluation data, resulting from the I-Corps regional training activities, will be openly shared among other NSF-awarded Innovation Corps nodes.

NOTE: NSF may call upon I-Corps Regional Nodes up to twice a year to host approximately 25-30 I-Corps teams in the delivery of the NSF-selected I-Corps curriculum. If NSF requests a Node to deliver the standard I-Corps curriculum, the I-Corps Regional Node will collaborate with NSF or an NSF designee to provide the I-Corps training. The budget for delivering the I-Corps curriculum will be negotiated at the time that such a request is made and should not be included as part of the response to the current solicitation.

Level 2 Contribution – I-Corps Node Regional Infrastructure:

I-Corps Regional Nodes will develop near-term tools and resources that will impact and expand the benefits of the entire I-Corps program within a 2-3 year timeframe.

Proposers are expected to identify models, to be leveraged for broad dissemination and implementation, of effective innovation content, curricula, and teaching/learning practices – detailing the specific activities, goals and measureable outcomes that will be associated with the proposed efforts. In addition, nodes will be required to develop and submit/utilize a logic model that describes the aspects of the proposed effort (e.g., inputs, activities, outputs and outcomes) and the associated data that will be used to measure any commensurate change/success/achievement. Proposers should consider how such activities will benefit the innovation network and how other nodes would be able to utilize/leverage their prospective Level 2 contributions.

Level 2 efforts should also address the issues associated with accelerating the diffusion/adaption/adoption of effective innovation practices in the national ecosystem, while further building entrepreneurial capacity in the node environments. Specific geographic locations may not have all that is necessary to create successful outcomes in a particular technology area. The innovation network, along with its nodes and effective linkages, can help foster connections to such an area and, ultimately, help produce success at scale.

Level 3 Contribution – I-Corps Node Blue Sky Research:

I-Corps Regional Nodes will identify and pursue longer-term (5+ year) research and development projects that meet the goals of the I-Corps program.

I-Corps Regional Nodes will be expected to leverage and analyze data from Level 1 and Level 2 contributions. Key activities will focus on: 1) developing an understanding of how institutions can improve support for innovation ecosystems; 2) sharing and developing methods for successfully scaling effective practices and models that foster innovation; 3) exploring how the National Innovation Network can enable new collaborations among geographic regions to support commercialization–independent of geographic locations; 4) examining and tracking the I-Corps teams’ dynamics, activities and outcomes; and 5) identifying and proposing improvements to the I-Corps curriculum materials, training practices, and National Innovation Network utilization.

Considerations for Network Nodes

The I-Corps Regional Nodes in the National Innovation Network will have considerable autonomy in their operation, management, and oversight as part of the overall network. Each institution must commit to providing the necessary infrastructure, including appropriate personnel, equipment and facilities, in support of a networked community. Nodes must embrace a culture of open access to data, educators, researchers and mechanisms for encouraging non-traditional participants from diverse disciplines.

Proposers are encouraged to form partnerships among regional institutions. Collaborations of up to three institutions are encouraged. When more than one institution is involved, a plan for unified leadership across the institutions must be provided.

Coordinating Features of the Regional Nodes

Nodes should have the following features:

  • Coordination of innovation research, education, outreach and commercial development programs across the network;
  • Appropriate mixture of geographically distributed personnel and institutions that provide diverse and complementary capabilities to support current and anticipated needs for fostering innovation across a broad spectrum of science and engineering domains;
  • Effective management structure to ensure close linkage and cooperation among the nodes such that they operate as a cohesive national network;
  • Seamless methods of network operation that support projects across the network, through development and utilization of compatible internet-based networking/collaboration tools;
  • Dissemination of shared knowledge to research and development communities;
  • Promotion of diversity among students, faculty, staff, management, and outreach activities;
  • Methods for assessment and metrics of node/network performance and impact;
  • Planning processes to accommodate emerging areas and future growth of external/internal node participants, including adding new participants to, or dropping existing participants from, the network; and
  • Fostering of additional support from non-NSF sources, including other Federal agencies, State governments, and the private sector.

Proposals must clearly demonstrate an ability and willingness to enable these features.\


Estimated program budget, number of awards and average award size/duration are subject to the availability of funds.

The anticipated funding amount for FY13 is $ 2,000,000

Full Program Solicitation