Initial Cohort of I-Corps Trainees Begins

Friday, February 10, 2017

In December, UNH kicked off its initial cohort of I-Corps™ trainees. The I-Corps training is part of an I-Corps Site Grant UNH received from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in early 2016 to foster entrepreneurship on campus and support the maturation of innovations developed at UNH from idea generation to commercialization. One of the pillars of UNH’s I-Corps Site is a 10-week Lean LaunchPad course that exposes trainees to the business model canvas, a tool that uses regular interviews with potential customers to outline how an idea fits within a market. Teams are formed around a promising innovation or idea and consist of at least a Principal Investigator, an Industry/I-Corps Mentor, and an Entrepreneurial Lead.  Through participation in the UNH I-Corps training, teams are officially NSF-funded and eligible to apply for further funding to be an I-Corps Team (up to $50,000 of funding) and continue developing the commercial path for their idea through the canonical I-Corps program. The initial UNH I-Corps cohort met for the first time on November 30th  and included seven teams formed around some exciting innovations and ideas such as an online chemical inventory system and a helmetless tackling program for football training.

Customer Discovery:
The core of the I-Corps training is focused on the idea that potential customers hold the answers to the challenges facing each team and that the more time spent in engagement with the actual market, the more informed the teams will be on how to move forward. Participants are expected to make contact with 10 potential customers each week using real-time interactions instead of digital surveys, and share the feedback they receive in subsequent classes. The teams are pushed to discover what aspects of their innovation are highly valued by the market and what they’d have to do to meet those expectations. I-Corps is not designed to confirm to what the teams believe to be true about their innovation, rather to challenge the core ideas they have with real feedback from relevant people. It would be very unusual for their innovation to survive the process fundamentally unchanged.  Rather, the innovations evolve to be executed and delivered in a way the market actually wants.

Engagement with Classmates:
Another fundamental aspect of the I-Corps training is the engagement the teams get with the other participants. For much of the class time, the teams are sharing with the class what they’ve learned from week to week and exploring what the latest customer feedback means for their idea. Feedback from other classmates is critical to accelerating learning.

Each team receives up to $3,000 (as a total team amount) to spend on customer discovery. Customer discovery could include the travel expenses necessary to get direct customer feedback on their ideas, like train tickets, gas, car rentals, etc. Learning materials are also reimbursed.

Through the I-Corps site award, at least 30 potential I-Corps Teams will be trained each year for a total of 3 years. The next UNH I-Corps cohort will begin training in mid-February. If you are interested in participating in the I-Corps program, you can fill out the application on our website.  If you don’t have an idea or innovation but you would still like to participate, we can help match you with an existing team.