SFI/NSF I-Corps@SFI Entrepreneurial Training Programme 2018

Science Foundation Ireland has partnered with the National Science Foundation (NSF) on a collaborative framework called I-Corps@SFI to allow participation of SFI-funded researchers in the NSF Innovation Corps (I-CorpsTM) Programme.

The SFI/NSF I-Corps@SFI Entrepreneurial Training Programme is intended to support SFI funded researchers to develop entrepreneurial skills that will enable them to realise new opportunities for their research that will, in turn, lead to economic and societal impact. The programme will run on a pilot basis and is open to applications from researchers currently associated with an SFI Research Centre either as PI, Co-PI/Spoke Leader, Funded Investigator, or an Academic Collaborator; as well as to TIDA Awardees who currently hold or have held an SFI TIDA award in the last five years (2013 – 2018). The programme will support the participation of SFI teams in the NSF I-CorpsTM Curriculum which is an immersive entrepreneurial training programme built on a special, accelerated version of Stanford University's Lean LaunchPad course developed by Steve Blank.


Entrepreneurial Training

The SFI/NSF I-Corps@SFI Entrepreneurial Training Programme comprises an intensive 3-day bootcamp undertaken at an NSF I-CorpsTM affiliated location in the United States, followed by an immersive 6-week period of opportunity discovery/validation, during which teams are mentored by NSF I-CorpsTM trainers. Participants will be based at their Host Research Bodies for the duration of this 6-week period but will be able to use their award to undertake opportunity discovery activities that requires them to travel. During this period, teams must commit to participate in on-line webinars where they will engage with NSF mentors and other programme participants. At the end of the 6-week mentored period, the formal training component of the programme is completed by attendance at a 2-day “lessons learned” workshop at an I-CorpsTM affiliated location in the United States.


Objectives of the Programme

  • To train researchers in evidence-based entrepreneurship
  • To support the development of validated business models and commercialisation strategies for research with commercial potential
  • To support the formation of spin-outs and start-ups
  • To support researchers in identifying economic and societal impact opportunities for their research

Programme Eligibility

Proposals will be accepted from

(i) A Principal Investigator (PI), Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI), Spoke Leader or Funded Investigator (FI) in an SFI Research Centre or an Academic Collaborator associated with an SFI Research Centre who has secured as PI or Co-PI an internationally peer reviewed award in the last 5 years (2013 – 2018); or

(ii) A PI on an SFI Technology Innovation Development Award (TIDA) awarded under any call in the period 2012 - 2017 (inclusive). Proposals will only be accepted from awardees who applied as an independent investigator or who have in the interim period achieved independence as demonstrated through securing an internationally peer reviewed award in their own name as PI or Co-PI.

Under the programme, proposals must identify a participating team comprising:

  1. Principal Investigator (PI). It is expected that the PI will provide technical leadership and oversee project management.
  2. Entrepreneurial Lead (EL). The Entrepreneurial Lead (EL) will be a post-doctoral researcher who currently work under the supervision of the PI or who may wish to work with the PI as part of the programme. The EL is expected to have the necessary technical expertise relating to the proposed technology along with the motivation to lead the opportunity discovery/validation activities of the team during the programme and progress the commercialisation of the technology following completion of the programme.
  3. Entrepreneurial Mentor (EM). The Entrepreneurial Mentor (EM) is expected to bring entrepreneurial/industry experience to the team and will serve as the principal guide to the EL in determining the technology disposition. Ideally, the EM would be willing to continue their engagement with the EL and PI following completion of the programme.

Programme Remit

The remit of the SFI/NSF I-Corps@SFI Entrepreneurial Training Programme includes the 14 NRP areas or any other area under SFI’s legal remit where strong evidence can be provided of significant industrial relevance and strong economic impact. In addition, the applicant is required to complete a brief statement justifying how the proposed research aligns with SFI’s legal remit. This statement will be used to determine the eligibility of the application.

Prof Kevin Ryan, UL (NSF I-CorpsTM Graduate, Principal Investigator)

I found SFI/NSF I-Corps@SFI Entrepreneurial Training Programme (ETP) hugely beneficial and the NSF I-CorpsTM process was like nothing I had experienced before in terms of how it was run in high intensity boot camp style. It really pushed me as an academic outside my comfort zone to “get out of the building”. The focus to engage with industry on their business needs as opposed to our “proposed product” was an eye opener. I was greatly surprised as to how willing industry were to engage on this basis and how much we learned about their needs to best refine our business idea.

Prof Cathal Gurrin, DCU (NSF I-CorpsTM Graduate, Principal Investigator)

Embracing the SFI/NSF I-Corps@SFI Entrepreneurial Training Programme (ETP) has had a transformative effect on how my team conducts research. The programme helped us to critically examine our plans and preconceptions, helping to unlock the potential of our research and skills in totally new application domains. I would strongly recommend the ETP programme to any serious researcher.

Prof Bruce Murphy, TCD (NSF I-CorpsTM  Graduate, Principal Investigator)

The NSF I-CorpsTM process focuses the team on the potential customer.  The process made us ask a key broad question: Does the customer really want our technology?  The customer interviews enabled our team to answer this question and also determine the true value proposition of our technology.  The support that the NSF I-CorpsTM faculty provide is significant and they smoothly guide you through this customer facing process. In the bioengineering space, the NSF I-CorpsTM course will help you develop technologies that are the right solutions to the problems that are observed in the clinic.  

Prof Andy Way, DCU (NSF I-CorpsTM  Graduate, Principal Investigator)

It was a genuinely enriching experience for all our team. It was extremely tough, but the whole process was ultimately very supportive. The mentors were some of the very best teachers I've ever encountered. I learned new skills during the programme that I apply now in my teaching and research activities. It's all about customer discovery - you don't know anything until you've spoken to potential customers about their pain points and these may be quite different from what you expect.

“It was a genuinely enriching experience for all our team. It was extremely tough, but the whole process was ultimately very supportive. The mentors were some of the very best teachers I've ever encountered.”  
Prof Andy Way, NSF I-Corps Graduate



Duration: 6 months

Award Size: €35,000

Key Dates

Call Launch: 28th May 2018

Webinar: 13th June 2018, 14:00 Dublin Local Time

Full Proposal Submission Deadline: 17th August 2018, 13:00 Dublin Local Time


Full details on the proposal and submission requirements may be found in the proposal call. Please read the documentation carefully in advance of queries and submission.

Call for Proposals (PDF)

Frequently Asked Questions (last update June 2018) (PDF)

Application Form (MS-Word)

Curriculum Vitae Template (MS-Word)

SFI reserves the right to make amendments to the documents if required. Please ensure that you are referring to the most recent version of the call document and FAQs. Research Offices will be contacted in the event of any updates to the call documentation.


SFI hosted a webinar on Wednesday 13th June 2018 which outlined details of the SFI/NSF I-Corps@SFI Entrepreneurial Training Programme 2018.

The webinar is available to watch here.

The presentation slides are also available to download here.

Programme-related Queries

For programme-related queries please contact i-corps@sfi.ie