UNY I-Corps Helps Grow Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Upstate NY

UNY I-Corps Helps Grow Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Upstate NY

The Upstate New York I-Corps Node (UNY I-Corps) aims to help STEM researchers combine their strong technical and scientific knowledge with a business-focused mindset. UNY I-Corps is one of eight National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (NSF I-Corps) Nodes, serving as regional connectors for the NSF’s National Innovation Network. Our goal is to support individuals and teams through regional and site-specific programming, helping each validated project reach the national level.


Individuals can participate in Node programming; interested individuals can go on to form or join a team. Each team has three key members: an entrepreneurial lead, a principal investigator, and an industry mentor. Principal investigators are often faculty or researchers who can take on the PI role in a project; PIs do not have to be academic advisors. PIs help guide the R&D for the entrepreneurial lead, who is most often a postdoctoral or graduate student. The entrepreneurial lead drives the project and has an interest in the commercial potential for the product. Teams are then connected to a mentor who has industry or entrepreneurial expertise and can help oversee the process from product development to market implementation. Collectively, this group—the principal investigator, entrepreneurial lead and mentor—is formally known as an I-Corps Team.


I-Corps Teams use resources provided by I-Corps Sites to further discover the market potential for their products. I-Corps Sites are academic institutions that offer advice, training, space, networking opportunities, hardware resources and modest funding to projects they believe are likely to succeed in the commercialization phase. Each Site has unique offerings based on the school’s areas of expertise.


At the national level, I-Corps Nodes offer regional support and act as hubs for education and research to engage teams together in innovation. The eight I-Corps Nodes also provide space for the I-Corps Curriculum, a group of classes and workshops team members must attend to understand the customer discovery process, competition and the uncertainty involved in creating new innovations. For a complete list of I-Corps Nodes and Sites please click here.


With the newest addition of Cornell as an I-Corps Site, all three schools in the UNY I-Corps Node are official I-Corps Sites, resulting in a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem at every level. The UNY I-Corps Node aims to reach out to underrepresented populations that may not usually receive entrepreneurial guidance. In partnership with RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, the nation’s largest engineering program for the deaf, the UNY I-Corps Node will encourage participation from the deaf and hard of hearing. The UNY I-Corps Node hopes to promote inclusivity, giving everyone a chance to reach his or her entrepreneurial potential.


There are many ways to get involved with the NSF’s National Innovation Network. To find out more information before fully committing, you can attend an I-Corps Short Course  to learn about the program – a team is not required for Short Course participation. These courses are free and do not require you to have previous or current NSF funding. If you are an institution that is classified as a Site, you can host or sponsor an I-Corps Short Course at your Site location. If you have considerable knowledge regarding entrepreneurship or business development, consider becoming a mentor for an I-Corps Team. For more information on how to get involved please click here.


Cornell University, Rochester Institute of Technology, and the University of Rochester make up the Upstate New York I-Corps Node. In September 2016, the consortium of schools was granted $4.2 million from the NSF I-Corps program to create an I-Corps Node serving the Northeast. This five-year award gives the UNY I-Corps Node an incredible opportunity to foster entrepreneurship education, research and product development.