I-Corps™ at GW
Having an innovator's mindset can help you gain new insights into human behavior, define new research topics, explore new applications for existing inventions, or investigate the potential of a new market sector.
The start of any research journey is curiosity. When observing the world, a person can become curious as to why something is a certain way, or how something operates, and why it operates in that exact way. Observation then leads to exploration. In an academic setting, this often takes the form of “bench” research. An individual can stay in this phase for as long as they want, even years or decades, by researching, examining, and recording a particular interest or phenomenon. Some academics will seek to publish a paper on their findings, and some will opt to begin the process all over again by researching a different interest. Not all ideas are meant to be commercial enterprises, and many people with ideas never aim to become entrepreneurs. Therefore, in this research-heavy phase, we focus on Lean Startup as a general mindset, which is useful in evaluation and storytelling, and therefore helpful in defining the needs or parameters of research. An excellent result of Lean Startup training at this phase can be: writing better proposals, writing better papers for international journals, creating better presentations on research findings, or applying for and winning more research grants like SBIRs.
Some researchers will wish to move forward into the commercialization process. These individuals, after examining the world, have developed an idea they believe might have commercial potential. In this phase, innovators are interested in the viability of their business idea. Lean Startup, using hypotheses testing and market validation methodologies, helps uncover what is truly unique or most valued about an innovation by its intended beneficiaries. It’s crucial for early-stage innovators, before they build anything, to focus on 1) customer definition 2) problem-solution fit and 3) value provided in the minds of intended consumers. This phase of an innovator’s journey is where the commercial potential of an innovation is validated or invalidated. Teams move from learning about customer discovery, to confirming key elements of their business model (or pivoting), to eventually considering small-scale market testing.
Each year, GW’s Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship (OIE) trains researchers from all over the world on how to think about the market. OIE’s efforts have resulted in over 1,500 teams trained, over 350 ventures started, and over $1.4 Billion in follow-on funding raised.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps program is intended to give participants an avenue to pursue the commercialization of their research.
GW’s two-week NSF Regional I-Corps Short Course:
- Prepares researchers for commercialization.
- Increases the potential for researcher success in the next phase of development.
- Helps researchers identify their first customers.
- Helps researchers build the right product initially, with limited funding, based on market feedback.
- Introduces teams to a community of fellow I-Corps participants.