CSU I-Corps Cohort #3 (Student Teams) before Lessons Learned Presentations during the 28th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium at the Hyatt Regency Orange County (January 5-7, 2016).
CSU I-Corps Cohort #3 (Student Teams) before Lessons Learned Presentations during the 28th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium at the Hyatt Regency Orange County (January 7-9, 2016).

“Keep in mind that successful companies are less about the original idea and more about the learning, discovery and execution.” – STEVE BLANK

The Fall 2016 CSU Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) Challenge is for CSU student teams and faculty-led research group teams.  Both undergraduates and graduate students are eligible to participate as I-Corps team members.

Twelve intrepid teams have been selected to form Cohort #5. They started work at an all-day, in-person Kickoff Workshop at San Diego State University on Saturday, August 6.  During the 29th annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium (Jan. 5-7, 2017), teams will make technical and lessons learned presentations to two evaluation panels of invited industry experts.

Student teams start with a biotechnology research-based idea. At least one team member should have hands-on experience working with the underlying biotechnology. Faculty-led teams involve research group members. During Fall 2016, teams interview potential customers and partners to find a problem-solution fit for their biotechnology. Teams attend webinars together to learn about the customer discovery process, business model canvas concepts, business communications, legal, regulatory and reimbursement issues. Webinars are taught by experienced life science entrepreneurs, industry professionals and faculty associated with CSU I-Corps.

To smooth the work of moving product concepts out of the lab, teams win CSU I-Corps™ microgrants ($2500) that can be spent over a five-month period (September 1, 2016 – January 31, 2017).  CSU I-Corps microgrants can be used to interview and work with mentors, advisors and potential partners. Microgrants are best used to attend relevant industry meetings to meet potential customers or partners. Microgrants can be used to fabricate prototypes and/or to buy research materials and supplies for proof-of-concept work suggested during Fall 2016 customer discovery. In addition to the $2,500 microgrant, CSUPERB will reimburse travel to the final presentation weekend at the 29th Annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium.


Call for Teams – January 2016
Application Deadline – Rolling until cohort #5 is filled or August 1, whichever comes first
Applicant Team Interviews – Rolling interviews until August 1 or until cohort #5 is filled
Microgrant Awards Made – mid-May – August 1, 2016
Kickoff Workshop (all day; including IP Workshop) – Saturday, August 6, San Diego State University
Webinar 1 – Friday, September 9
Webinar 2 – Friday, September 23
Webinar 3 – Friday, October 7
Webinar 4 – Friday, October 21
One Pagers Due – Friday, November 4
Webinar 5 – Monday, November 7 (note change of date!)
First Draft Videos Due – Friday, December 9
Final Presentation Weekend – January 5-7, 2017 (Santa Clara Marriott)

All CSU I-Corps webinars and final presentations are MANDATORY for all team members.  All CSU I-Corps webinars are held noon – 1:30 pm (setup at 11:45 am).  Webinars are participatory Zoom videoconferences.

The Detailed Fall 2015 syllabus is here as an example (details will change before the new cohort of teams starts this fall).


Icorps Student Composition

Student-led teams involve an Entrepreneurial Lead (EL; a CSU student), 2-3 other student team members, and an industry mentor (IM). Both undergraduates and graduate students are eligible. Student teams must involve students from both [science/engineering] and [business/MBA/entrepreneurship] degree programs! Student team members must be CSU students in good standing. Administrative Contacts (ACs) help student teams with the application process, make contact with campus research or technology transfer offices, file paperwork needed to order supplies, get travel approvals and reimbursements, and file invention disclosures at your campus research office, if needed.

Faculty Team Composition Graphic

Faculty-led teams involve a Faculty research mentor (PI/EL), 1-2 students or staff members, and an industry mentor (IM).

Teams should feel free to use the CSU I-Corps Mentor Handbook to recruit a suitable IM.

This is a Biological Sciences I-Corps program – so product/service/process concepts fall into one of these categories: therapeutics, devices, diagnostics, digital health, environmental monitoring, instrumentation/bioinformatics/tools, biofuels, agricultural biotechnologies.


This is a real-world, experiential learning program. CSU I-Corps is an intense program with a relatively high workload during the fall and winter break. Your time commitment involves attending webinars, reading homework, making presentations and getting off campus to interview experts and potential customers or partners.

Teams will attend a series of webinars (see schedule above) to learn Lean Launchpad concepts from the CSU I-Corps Teaching Team; each webinar requires homework assignments from each team. However, the aim of I-Corps programming is to create entrepreneurial experiences “with all the pressures and demands of the real world.” Teams will schedule and attend recurring meetings with their Industry Mentor. In this way teams will get feedback continuously to hone product concepts, improve their understanding of biotechnology markets, and formulate commercialization pathways.

Previous teams report working between 40-100 hours over the fall term. This means team members spend 3-5 hours weekly 1) designing experiments to test commercialization hypotheses, 2) meeting to synthesize feedback and make plans, 3) reading, 4) watching assigned videos and doing homework assignments, 5) talking with industry mentors (IM), and 6) interviewing industry experts and potential customers or partners.  You must “get out the building” and interview ~30 customers or experts over the course of the fall.  If you and your teammates cannot commit to this level of work during the Fall 2016 term, this opportunity is probably not for you.

Funded teams will:

  • participate in a series of regularly scheduled webinars designed to teach teams about about the customer discovery process, business model canvas concepts, business communications, legal and biotechnology regulatory issues;
  • use an experimental method to iteratively and continuously test whether your biotechnology product, service or process concept meets a real market need;
  • work with a teaching team, mentors and advisors drawn from CSUPERB’s statewide network of biotechnology industry associations, alumni and campus-based innovation centers;
  • assess (and re-assess!) a biotechnology idea’s maturity, problem-solution fit, and follow-on funding strategies, based on feedback from customers and advisors;
  • present product concepts and lessons learned to panels of industry professionals during a final, in-person weekend;
  • gain remarkable access to industry mentors and leadership opportunities on which to build a career, a company, or your next proposal idea; and
  • gain eligibility for the NSF’s I-Corps™ Team Grant program (and $50,000 follow-on funding).

On the Final Weekend, CSU I-Corps teams present their product concepts, justify the problem-solution fit, and describe lessons learned to external evaluation panels.  Teams’ success will be gauged by the amount of learning they do over the course of the Challenge.


    1. Form CSU I-Corps Teams –  teams should start forming now (see team composition information above).  Teams have time between now and August 1st to recruit an Industry Mentor (IM).   Our industry partners hold networking events – they are excellent opportunities at which teams can identify and recruit IMs.  See partner websites for upcoming events. If teams have trouble identifying an IM, let CSUPERB know and we can help you recruit an IM.
    2. Complete Fall 2016 CSU I-Corps Application and Submit – All team members must work with a CSU Administrative Contact (AC; a CSU faculty mentor, administrator or staff member) or a Faculty PI, who will help teams navigate department travel policies, follow reimbursement processes, and submit applications to CSUPERB.  The Fall 2016 application form is linked here.  Make sure to get all necessary signatures before scanning (to PDF) and submitting the completed application form. Applications should be submitted by the AC or PI for the team using the CSUPERB Sharepoint Application Submission website linked here.
    3. Pencil the mandatory Fall 2016 CSU I-Corps dates (above) into your calendars now!
    4. Interview with Teaching Team – The CSU I-Corps Teaching Team will interview eligible applicant teams by videoconference. All team members and the Administrative Contact must attend the interview.  CSUPERB will schedule interviews after applications pass administrative review. Decisions will be made based on team commitment, the team’s understanding of the work and schedule involved, their familiarity with NSF I-Corps, as well as their understanding of their intellectual property position.

Award decisions will be made on a rolling schedule until the first of August or until the cohort of teams is full, whichever happens first.

The CSU I-Corps Student Challenge is funded by the National Science Foundation, as part of the I-Corps Sites™ program. Email csuperb@mail.sdsu.edu or call the program office (619-594-2822) if you have questions about this program.