The Milwaukee I-Corps Program is a joint project of the academic institutions in the Milwaukee region to accelerate ideas using the proven I-Corps methodology. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps Program Foundation (grant # 1450386), the Southeastern Wisconsin I-Corps Site will foster commercialization of applied academic research and faculty/student innovation; build an innovation/commercialization network that supports faculty and/or student ventures; and broaden the pool of students and faculty fluent in Lean LaunchPad (LLP) methodology.
I-Corps Site team ideas or projects can originate from student work, research (funded or unfunded), institutional- or industrial projects. The program encourages projects with a focus in an area(s) of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. However, all types of projects will be considered.
Teams are composed of three members who can be students, post-docs, staff, faculty, alumni, or members of the local entrepreneurial community.
The Entrepreneurial Lead (EL) is a post-doctoral scholar, a student, professional staff, or alum of one of the partnering academic institutions with relevant knowledge of the technology and a deep commitment to investigate the commercial landscape surrounding the innovation.
The Academic Lead (AL) will be responsible for overall project management. The AL will preferably have an academic appointment that would normally qualify the AL to submit proposals or play the role of a PI in subsequent submissions to NSF. The AL can also be post-doctoral scholar, a student, professional staff, or alum provided that person has a deep understanding of the technology that serves as the focus of the project.
Additionally, teams will have a Mentor (M), who can either apply as part of the team or be provided by the I-Corps Site. A Mentor will typically be an experienced or emerging entrepreneur with experience in transitioning technology out of academic labs. The Mentor will be responsible for guiding the team forward and tracking progress. The I-Corps Site will find mentors for the team that do not have them.
The program consists of a four-week workshop (five Monday nights, 6-9pm) where participants are coached on designing and validating a business model around their idea. The last session will be dedicated to team presentations on lessons learned and a closing reception. Upon completion, each team will have to decide whether to proceed with the idea (“go”) or stop and regroup (“no-go”).
The I-Corps Site will provide:
- Education: five LLP workshops on customer discovery
- Mentoring: via I-Corps Site’s entrepreneurial network
- Mini-grant: up to $2,400 in NSF funding, which can be used for prototyping materials, travel to visit potential customers and end users, and other business expenses
- Continuing commercialization support and follow-up
Workshops on Customer Discovery: Teams participate in a four-week series of workshops that follows the Lean LaunchPad (LLP) methodology. The workshops will meet once a week for two hours.
Mentoring: The I-Corps Site will assist teams by facilitating connections with members of its extensive entrepreneurial network consisting of advisors, CEOs, investors, and areas experts.
Monetary support: Teams will be eligible for funding of up o $2,400 for activities related to the development of their business model, such as attending industry shows, visiting customers, and the development of prototypes.
Upon completing the summer program, all teams will have tested and developed their business models and will be well positioned to apply for further funding. For example, teams will have all necessary materials to develop a strong application to the National NSF I-Corps program, which substantially increases the likelihood of obtaining NSF SBIR Phase I and II funding, for a potential further funding of close to $1 million.
The site will leverage a broad resource network to help teams advance their ideas to the market including investment networks as well as accelerator and incubator programs.