Western Innovation Corps Hub

Innovation Corps at Mines

The Colorado School of Mines is a proud affiliate of the Western Innovation Corps Hub, one of only ten National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (I-Corps) National Hubs, in a partnership between UCLA, USC, and CU Boulder. Our collaboration extends to Caltech, UC Riverside, University of Utah, and University of New Mexico.

Teams that successfully complete the Western Regional Hub’s regional program will be eligible for sponsorship to apply to the National I-Corps Teams Program, allowing student and alumni teams to have access to all of the National Nodes opportunities!

The I-Corps program uses experiential education to help researchers gain valuable insight into entrepreneurship, starting a business or industry requirements and challenges.

We have extended I-Corps methods beyond the National Science Foundation by partnering with NREL’s West Gate program.

If you interested, please email NSFI-Corps@mines.edu

Team Grant program

The National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (“I-Corps”) program is one of the nation’s leading technology transfer preparation programs. Modeled originally on the Peace Corps, I-Corps is the only technology transfer program that teaches entrepreneurial skills. It’s designed to help university faculty innovators bring their technologies to market. Non-tenure-track research faculty and tenure-track are both encouraged to apply.

For more information, read the NSF Fact Sheet or contact us at NSFI-Corps@mines.edu

Team Application eligibility

  • You are eligible for $50,000 to conduct customer discovery while participating in an immersive entrepreneurial experience. The success rate for I-Corps teams applying for SBIR grants is roughly 50%, or at least 3 times higher than without this training. This funding comes directly to you as a university principal investigator.

  • Normally, applications are required to have a NSF funding history. If you are a faculty member and you have NSF awards, you may apply directly for a team grant. If not, you may obtain your legacy by entering a short training program managed through the Western I-Corps Hub led by USC, UCLA or CU Boulder.

  • Your team must have an entrepreneurial lead (EL) and an industry mentor (IM). The EL should be a graduate student or postdoc in your lab, while the industry mentor must come from the business world. Often I-Corps teams recruit retired business owners or others with strong sales experience. We can help you find an entrepreneurial lead, if you need one!

Starting Blocks and Research to Market (R2M) Programs

Applications close July 29

Discover Your Customer Starting Blocks runs every quarter (4 times/annually) and R2M in the Spring and Fall (twice a year).  The programs consist of

– Three half-day lectures on customer discovery and interviewing
Five to 10 interviews during the week done in a target industry
– Weekly check-in meetings with instructors and staff

August 2022

– August 5 | 8am-11am MT
– August 12 9am-12pm MT
– August 19 | 9am-12pm MT

November 2022

– November 4 | 9am-12pm MT
– November 11 | 9am-12pm MT
– November 18 | 9am-12pm MT

Fall 2022 Research to Market (R2M):

– Pre Session – September 6  | 12pm-2pm MT
– Kickoff – September 13 & 14 | 9am-1pm MT
– Webinars & Report Outs – September 19, 26, October 3  | 12pm-2pm MT
– Final Team Report Outs – October 7 | 9am-1pm MT




Even if you’re not sure you have the right tech or idea for the National I-Corps program, ZAP can still be for you. 

In ZAP, you will gain real-world insights, interacting with potential consumer bases for an end product – the purpose is to obtain actionable data and refine your value proposition: how can your tech provide a solution to a real-world challenge? 

Your team will be coached by expert instructors in various fields of business and tech, learning about Lean Startup Methodology and the business model canvas, and you will have to complete 10 interviews with industry-relevant businesses

In ZAP, you will not be required to have found an Industry Mentor for your team, but we highly encourage you to recruit an IM as soon as you are able.


BOOM is invitation-only after ZAP completion, and teams are chosen based on both performance and the relevance of your technology to the National I-Corps program. 

Through additional coaching and another round of 10 industry interviews, you will dive deeper into customer discovery and business ecosystem, gaining insights into the process of transforming a deep tech innovation into a growing startup. 

After successfully completing BOOM, you will be invited to apply for Hub sponsorship to Nationals.