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Penn Center for Innovation (PCI) I-Corps Program

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Through a grant from NSF, the PCI Penn I-Corps program works with Penn faculty, staff, post-docs, and students to test and validate startup ideas through Customer Discovery.

Participants learn valuable skills in connecting with customers, asking the right questions, and how to find partners to help get startup ideas off the ground. Plus, qualifying teams will be recommended to apply for the National I-Corps Program

Program Components

  1. Better understand why technology has value and to whom.
  2. Explore taking new technology to the marketplace
  3. Completing the program puts your team in an excellent position to apply to the National I-Corps Program  — where you’ll have $50,000 in support to conduct customer discovery.
  4. Increase chances of receiving an SBIR/STTR award
  5. Participation in PCI events that expose you to key stakeholders and funders in the entrepreneurship community
  6. Mentors to guide you going forward
  7. Support for applying to follow-on programs
  8. Exposure to the Philadelphia startup ecosystem


We seek engaged, scientifically-trained individuals from all Penn schools, particularly those with:

  • UPenn affiliation.
  • Applications continuously accepted on a rolling basis
  • Once accepted, participants can choose which cohort to join
  • Once a cohort fills up, participants will be queued for the next one.

Program Requirements and Commitments

PCI Penn I-Corps Program Fellows are expected to approach their roles with a professional business mindset, ensuring a commitment to quality and efficiency in all aspects of their involvement. Specifically, they are required to:

  • Engage fully in the initial in-person training sessions.
  • Commit to a one-year tenure, with the option to extend their participation.
  • Dedicate up to 10 hours each week to assigned projects, mirroring a business-like work ethic.
  • Attend monthly training meetings to enhance their professional development and network.
  • Adhere to strict project deadlines, reflecting the rigor and discipline expected in a business setting.