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SLUStart I-Corps

SLUStart I-Corps is a program managed by the OVPR Research Innovation Group at Saint Louis University. It is designed to help University researchers and community innovators extend their focus beyond academia and the laboratory.

Get help pursuing your innovation or new venture concept and possibly qualify for up to $50,000 in non-dilutive financial support.

SLUStart I-Corps helps participants ensure that their research and innovations will have greater economic and societal benefit.  It integrates the original SLUStart program and the National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps Site program at Saint Louis University. As such, SLUStart I-Corps projects that qualify as NSF I-Corps Site projects have full access to the NSF I-Corps ecosystem.

SLUStart I-Corps aims to:

  • Train participants, particularly SLU faculty and students across all academic disciplines, in the lean startup methodology (i.e., customer development process) popularized by Steve Blank.
  • Increase the quality and impact of research conducted at Saint Louis University and locally developed innovations.
  • Advance the commercialization of SLU intellectual properties.
  • Increase the participation of underrepresented groups, such as women and African-Americans, in entrepreneurship and the technology industry.

If you have questions about SLUStart I-Corps, contact Malcolm Townes in the Research Innovation Group at malcolm.townes@slu.edu. To participate in the program, submit your application.

Eligibility 

Base Level Eligibility
The following groups are eligible to participate in SLUStart I-Corps:

  1. Anyone who is pursuing:
    • the commercialization of SLU intellectual property 
    • the advancement and maturation of a particular line of SLU research
  2. Anyone pursuing their own concepts for innovations or new ventures who are:
    • members of the SLU community (i.e., faculty, staff, post-docs, graduate students, undergraduate students or alumni)
    • partnering with a SLU school, academic unit, center of excellence, or other division to pursue their innovation or new venture
    • appropriately affiliated with a SLUStart I-Corps partner organization
    • residents of the greater St. Louis, Missouri area

Supplemental Eligibility (Group A)
SLUStart I-Corps projects that qualify as NSF I-Corps Site projects are eligible for financial support during their participation in the program.  Additionally, participants pursuing projects that meet all of the following criteria also qualify to apply for additional training and financial support provided through the NSF I-Corps National Teams program:

  1. Projects whose concepts would qualify to be funded by the NSF.
  2. Projects whose primary team members have successfully completed Sessions 1-3 and the fieldwork of the SLUStart I-Corps program.
  3. Projects in which the principal investigator (PI) of record is a person eligible to serve as PI at SLU or another university.

Supplemental Eligibility (Group B)
Participants pursuing projects that meet all of the following criteria also qualify to apply for additional training and financial support provided through the NSF SBIR Phase 0 program:

  1. Projects whose concepts would qualify to be funded by the NSF.
  2. Projects whose primary team members have successfully completed sessions 1-3 and the fieldwork of the SLUStart I-Corps program.
  3. Projects not associated with or sponsored by Saint Louis University or any other university.

Submit your SLUStart application

FAQs

What are the benefits of participating in SLUStart I-Corps?

There are several benefits to participating in SLUStart I-Corps:

  • Increase your ability to identify promising lines of research that will fair more competitively with potential funding agencies (for SLU researchers).
  • Qualify to pursue funding grants of up to $50,000 from the NSF I-Corps National Teams program to further the development of your concept.
  • Minimize the probability of failure when commercializing research and launching new business ventures by learning the methodology that most successful entrepreneurs use to start their businesses.
  • Increase the quality and impact of research projects and innovations.
  • Increase your ability to attract funding and outside investors.
  • Increase your ability to successfully compete for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) grants.
  • Increase your ability to differentiate yourself with potential employers during your job search (for graduate and undergraduate students).
  • Develop skills that will help advance your career whether you're a university professor, an aspiring community entrepreneur, or a student still looking forward to your first post-college job.
  • Test entrepreneurship as a career option with very low personal risk.
Does participating in SLUStart I-Corps convey any ownership interest in my  venture to Saint Louis University?
No, participating in SLUStart I-Corps does NOT convey any ownership interest in your venture or company to SLU.  Moreover, SLU does NOT require or request any ownership interest in projects in order to participate in the SLUStart I-Corps program.
How is the program structured?
The standard program is currently structured as several components covered in two cohort working sessions (each lasting about 4 to 6 hours), with one to two weeks between the working sessions in which participants conduct fieldwork (i.e., customer discovery interviews).  The instructors and mentors are available to provide one-on-one assistance to you on an as needed basis as your schedule allows during the time between cohort sessions and on an on-going basis after the conclusion of the cohort sessions.  Participants pursuing projects that qualify as NSF I-Corps Site projects and who plan to apply to the NSF I-Corps National Teams program must attend a third cohort session that typically lasts 2 to 4 hours.  Additionally, SLUStart I-Corps has the flexibility to accommodate  other structures to fit the schedule and availability of participants and partners.  The standard program can be condensed into a time frame as short as one week or the content can be further subdivided and delivered over a period of several months.
What kind of time commitment is required to participate in SLUStart I-Corps?

Under the standard program, the the first working session typically lasts three to four hours and the second session lasts takes about four to six hours.  The meeting days and times for the cohort working sessions are scheduled according the availability of the cohort participants.  In many cases, cohort sessions are scheduled on weekends or weekday evenings for the convenience of participants.  Additionally, participants are expected to spend time outside of the working sessions applying what they've learned to pursue their concepts.  However, how much time you spend outside of the working sessions is at your discretion.

Are there any costs associated with participating in SLUStart I-Corps?
There is no cost to participate in SLUStart I-Corps.
When are cohorts held?
We accept applications to SLUStart I-Corps continuously.  We form cohorts on a rolling basis whenever we have a minimum number of participants to form a cohort (typically at least three projects).
For what type of expenses can the financial support be used while participating in SLUStart I-Corps?

SLUStart I-Corps participants working on projects that meet the supplemental eligibility requirements (i.e., qualify as I-Corps Site projects) may receive up to $2,250 per project in financial support while participating in the program.  This funding can be used for eligible expenses such as:

  • Reasonable compensation to target customers for participating in customer discovery interviews.
  • Registration fees to attend relevant conferences to interview target potential customers.
  • Travel expenses associated with attending relevant conferences.
  • Purchases of data and information to prepare for and facilitate customer discovery interviews, such as:
    - LinkedIn subscription
    - Email finder services (e.g., RocketReach.co, Anymailfinder.com)
    - Membership list purchases
  • Expenses associated with products and services used to conduct and document customer discovery interviews, such as:
    - Subscription to LaunchpadCentral.com
    - Transcription services
  • Development of minimum viable products (MVPs) to use during customer discovery and customer validation.
  • Purchases of the following approved reference materials:
    - Blank, S., & Dorf, B. (2012). The startup owner's manual: The step-by-step guide for building a great company. BookBaby.
    - Christensen, C. (2013). The innovator's dilemma: when new technologies cause great firms to fail. Harvard Business Review Press.
    - Osterwalder, A., & Pigneur, Y. (2010). Business model generation: a handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers. John Wiley & Sons.
    - Osterwalder, A., Pigneur, Y., Bernarda, G., & Smith, A. (2014). Value proposition design: How to create products and services customers want. John Wiley & Sons.

Other expenses not listed above are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

How do I apply to the NSF I-Corps National Teams Program?

The NSF uses a pre-selection process for the national program.  The process is as follows:

1.) For projects that do not already have an NSF lineage (i.e., were not originally funded by the NSF), complete a local or regional I-Corps Site program, such as SLUStart I-Corps.  For SLUStart I-Corps, the requirements comprise the following:
     - Complete the first cohort session.
     - Conduct at least 5 customer discovery interviews.
     - Complete the second cohort session.
     - Submit the Participant Deliverable Report (provided by instructor)
     - Complete a third session (typically about two hours) specifically focused on preparing for the national program.

2.) Submit (via the I-Corps Teams Web Form) a recommendation from a senior member of the I-Corps site program staff and a two-page (maximum) executive summary that describes the following:
     - Team Members: Composition and roles (EL, TL, IM, plus  any additional co-EL, co-TL or co-IM) of the team members proposing to undertake the commercialization feasibility research and a brief  description of each member’s qualifications.
      - Principal Investigator:  Principal investigator (PI) and a brief description of their connection to the team.  The PI must be qualified to serve as the PI of record for the institution.  In most cases the PI will also be the TL but the roles can be split.
      - Lineage:  Relevant current/previous NSF awards (including participation in an I-Corps Site program) establishing team eligibility.
      - Technology:  Brief description of the core technology.
      - Application/Market: Brief description of the potential commercial application.
      - Current Plan: Brief description of the current commercialization plan.

3.) If invited, participate in an initial telephone interview with the NSF I-Corps National Program Management Team. This includes the entire project team as specified in item two above.

4.) If invited, participate in a second telephone interview with the NSF I-Corps National Program Management Team and Instructors. This includes the entire project team as specified in item two above.

5.) If pre-selected to participate, submit your official application and proposal to the NSF.

Regarding the timeline, the NSF accepts submissions of the Executive Summary on a continuous basis.  The telephone interview process is fairly quick, perhaps 2-4 weeks.  National Program cohorts are typically conducted in the fall, spring and summer.

Below is a link to the full solicitation for the NSF I-Corps National Teams Program.
https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2018/nsf18515/nsf18515.htm