NSF I-Corps

Fostering STEM and Entrepreneurial Innovation

In 2019, the Alaska Center ICE launched the Alaska Foundational Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program to empower Alaskan innovators, entrepreneurs, scientists, researchers, and students to test the commercial potential of their ideas and research. Supported with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and run by the Alaska Center ICE, the I-Corps program is specifically designed for participants working on projects related to the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. Participants are not required to have previous experience in business or entrepreneurship in order to be accepted into the I-Corps program.

About I-Corps

I-Corps is a highly-experiential, approximately 6-week-long program. Each team will receive a $2,500 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for their participation in the program. Participants are expected to dedicate an average of 3 hours per week to the following program activities and requirements.

  • Attend Two Classroom Sessions: At least two members of each I-Corps team are required to attend two 4-hour classroom sessions, which are held either Virtually (via Zoom video conference), in Anchorage (UAA), or Fairbanks (UAF). These sessions consist of lectures, team presentations, and visits from past program participants. In addition, these sessions provide time to foster team discussion, group work, and networking with other cohort members, speakers, and mentors.
  • Attend Weekly Office Hour check-ins: These are usually expected to last between 15-30 mins per week and provide an opportunity for course correction as learnings are made through the customer interviews. One team member must check-in weekly with the program instructor.
  • Complete Reading Assignments: Participants are expected to complete video and reading assignments in order to become more familiar with entrepreneurial topics discussed in class. All required reading materials will be provided by the Alaska Center ICE and will be distributed at the first classroom session.
  • Conduct 20 Interviews: In order to better understand the commercial potential of their ideas, teams will test their assumptions by conducting interviews with industry experts and potential “customers.” Outside of class, each team will conduct a minimum of 20 in-person interviews over the course of the six-week program. Participants are not expected to have any prior experience in conducting interviews. All participants will be trained and learn best practices for how to conduct stakeholder interviews as part of the I-Corps program.

This video is from a similar site program at Texas A&M University, maybe once we have a few more teams go through we'll feature you in our Alaska version of the video!


Program Benefits

I-Corps is extra-curricular and participants do not receive course credit for participating in the program. However, all participants will receive the following special benefits:

  • $2,500 funding (per team) from the National Science Foundation
  • Designation as an NSF-funded project, leading to further opportunities for training and funding through the NSF’s national I-Corps program ($50K of further funding), Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR), and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program - potentially over $1 million dollars per team of equity free seed funding.
  • Instruction and entrepreneurial education delivered by world-class faculty and staff from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
  • Individualized mentorship and coaching, access to resources, and training from the Alaska Center ICE
  • Free community membership and access to the Center ICE co-working space, events, and additional resources.

Make sure you’re aware of relevant application deadlines and required program dates before you apply as travel will ideally happen during the program course dates. View the I-Corps application online. >>


In meantime email Nigel Sharp to setup a quick call centerice@alaska.edu



How can we use the funds?

Each I-Corps team will receive upto a $2,500 reimbursement / or travel stipend (depending whether or not you're affiliated with the University). Grants are available from the beginning of each cohort and should be spent during the six week program period where possible and may be used to support various entrepreneurial activities related to the program, including:

  • Defray the travel costs of entrepreneurial interviews, including taxi/uber/lyft fare, airline tickets, and hotel stays anywhere in the USA.
  • Attend industry conferences or trade shows + associated fees
  • Pay for video conferencing services to allow for remote interviews, and educational support materials.

Funding may not be used to pay for attendance to academic focused conferences, business services (i.e., legal, accounting, etc.), to purchase electronic equipment, to do any product development or to pay third-party service providers. The Center ICE team will work with participants to identify appropriate uses of program funding, suitable conferences are usually identified before program begins.

How does the application process work?

Applications will be reviewed by a selection committee on a rolling basis and those accepted into the program will be assigned to a cohort based on availability. Qualified applicants may be invited to an interview with the program instructor as part of the application process.

Who is eligible?

Team eligibility requirements include:

  • a minimum of two teammates, co-located in Alaska, who are committed to attending both required workshops and completing out-of-class assignments – we do not recommend having more than four teammates, total;
  • an idea or project based in the STEM fields or has a technology component – this idea can be early-stage and teams are not required to have prototypes;
  • Open to both university and non-university affiliated teams – teams including faculty, students, staff, and alumni from the University of Alaska are given first preference, but all teams located in Alaska may apply for I-Corps;
  • curiosity and enthusiasm for learning about the process of innovation.

What makes an appropriate "team"?

Team composition:

It is required that participants apply to this program as a team of at least two people. We do not recommend that teams apply with more than four participants. Typically, teams consist of at least one scientific or technological expert who is responsible for the team’s idea (“the academic/technical lead”) and at least one business focused team member interested in conducting entrepreneurial research and directing group efforts (“the entrepreneurial lead”). The entrepreneurial lead may or may not have prior business experience, but is committed to leading or organizing team activities during the I-Corps Program. For the majority of teams who apply the instructor will act as a third team member “the mentor”, although in some cases an external mentor may be encouraged to work with the team.

The Alaska Center ICE can help facilitate team formation in order to match people with different experiences onto teams. For more information on how to form a team for I-Corps, contact centerice+icorps@alaska.edu

How big of a network is i-Corps nationally?

Big, over 100 sites and many major nodes. We're highly fortunate to have a program in State.

i-Corps Sites National Map