NSF Innovation Corps Hubs Program (I-Corps Hubs)

Please see the full solicitation for complete information about the funding opportunity. Below is a summary assembled by the Research & Innovation Office (RIO).

Program Summary 

Through this solicitation, NSF seeks to create the structure required to support the expansion of the NSF I-Corps Program throughout the community of NSF-funded researchers, local and regional entrepreneurial communities, and other federal agencies. The resulting National Innovation Network (NIN) will work collaboratively to create and sustain a national innovation ecosystem. The NIN is expected to be diverse and inclusive in all aspects, including research areas, personnel, institutions, tools, programs, capabilities, and geographic locations – providing the network with the flexibility to grow or reconfigure as needs arise. NSF I-Corps Hubs, as envisioned in this solicitation, will form the backbone of the NIN to enhance the nation's ability to:

  • identify, develop and support promising ideas that can generate value;
  • create and implement tools, resources and training activities that enhance our nation's innovation capacity;
  • gather, analyze, evaluate and utilize the data and insight resulting from the experiences of those participating in local, regional, and national programs;
  • provide opportunities to diverse communities of innovators; and
  • share and leverage effective innovation practices on a national scale to improve the quality of life for the U.S. citizenry.

NSF I-Corps Hubs achieve the strategic objectives through four principal activities:

  • Activity 1: NIN training: Deliver and execute regional cohorts at Partner and Affiliate institutions, and staff national cohort instructional teams (funded through the I-Corps Teams Solicitation referenced above) and Hub Mentored Teams.
  • Activity 2: Institutional expansion of the NIN: Deliver regional instruction at Affiliate institutions, and identify, recruit, and support new Teams for national cohorts.
  • Activity 3: Team expansion of the NIN: Recruit and support Teams identified through researchers who are recipients of NSF research awards, researchers receiving funding from other federal agencies, former students or postdoctoral fellows participating in technology research, or other avenues.
  • Activity 4: NIN evaluation, assessment, and blue-sky research: Collect and analyze data to inform evaluation of the NIN, including advanced scholarship on topics related to national support of entrepreneurial ecosystems and dissemination of best practices.

Important information to note for this solicitation:

  • The I-Corps Hubs program has placed greater emphasis on expansion and development of the National Innovation Network through a new funding model. An I-Corps Hub consists of a Principal, at least two Partners, and at least five Affiliates. The Partners and Affiliates will be funded as subawards on Hub awards to the Principal. Memoranda of Understanding with Partners and Affiliates must be included in proposals.
  • The I-Corps Hubs program has strengthened the requirement to support a diverse and inclusive community of innovators. Teams are encouraged to recruit diverse members at all levels, from I-Corps leadership to team composition. Hubs are required to submit a Diversity and Inclusion plan.
  • The I-Corps Hubs program has new pathways for teams to qualify for participation in the national I-Corps Teams program. I-Corps Hubs serve as a translational channel for deep technologies (technologies based on discoveries in fundamental science and engineering) offering the greatest opportunity for industrial and societal transformation. That channel now incorporates a direct funding pathway for Teams who have not identified Industry Mentors to participate in the national I-Corps Teams program. Supporting teams through this pathway will be included in the proposal through participant support costs.
  • The I-Corps Hubs program has strengthened the requirement for tracking, and assessment into program outcomes to meet the needs of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA). Tracking and assessment of regional teams conducted by the Hubs will be incorporated into the NSF reporting requirements under the AICA.
  • The proposal preparation instructions have been revised. Proposers are allowed up to 20 pages for their Project Descriptions.
  • The solicitation-specific review criteria have been updated to reflect the new I-Corps emphases.


CU Internal Deadline: 11:59pm MST February 17, 2020

Sponsor Full Proposal Deadline: 5:00pm MST April 14, 2020

Internal Application Requirements (all in PDF format)

  • Project Description (3-4 pages maximum): Please address all topics and see the NSF solicitation for full details:
    • Activity 1: NIN training
    • Activity 2: Institutional expansion of the NIN
    • Activity 3: Team expansion of the NIN
    • Activity 4: NIN evaluation, assessment, and blue-sky research
  • Hub Team (up to 2 pages maximum): Please specify the hub principal and partners, leadership team members with names, and brief description of how each team member’s experience will benefit the hub. 
  • Budget Overview (up to 1 page maximum): A basic budget outlining project costs is sufficient; detailed OCG budgets are not required.

To access the online application, visit: https://cuboulderovcr.secure-platform.com/a/solicitations/6462/home


The PI must be at the Principal (defined in Section II: Program Description) institution and must be in a senior academic administrative role at the level of Dean or higher. Each Partner (defined in Section II: Program Description) institution must identify a senior academic administrator at the level of Dean or higher to be included as Senior Personnel.

An Individual may be PI, co-PI, or Senior Personnel of only one NSF I-Corps Hub proposal per deadline.

The Principal must have at least two faculty members, one as PI, and one as co-PI. Each Partner must have at least two faculty members serving in Senior Personnel roles. Each Affiliate must include at least one faculty member serving in a Senior Personnel role.

Limited Submission Guidelines

Organizations may only be a participant (Principal, Partner or Affiliate) in one proposal per deadline.

Award Information

NSF I-Corps Hub awardees to be supported at a level of up to $3,000,000 per year for up to five years. All funds are awarded to the Principal institution; Partner and Affiliate members receive funding as subawardees. Estimated program budget, number of awards and average award size/duration are subject to the availability of funds.

Review Criteria

In addition to the standard NSF review criteria, a demonstrated command of the currently-deployed I-Corps curriculum (https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/i-corps/resources.jsp) will be part of the review process.

Coordinating features of NSF I-Corps Hubs also are important aspects. Consequently, proposals must clearly demonstrate a track record, ability, and willingness to enable these:

  • Appropriate mixture of geographically distributed personnel and institutions that provide diverse and complementary capabilities to support current and anticipated needs for fostering innovation across a broad spectrum of science and engineering domains;
  • A robust plan for the promotion of diversity and inclusion among students, faculty, staff, management, and outreach activities;
  • Exchange of personnel, programs, and other methods to accelerate dissemination of best practices;
  • Coordination of innovation research, education, outreach and commercial development programs;
  • Engagement of current and future prospective Affiliates;
  • Engagement of synergistic organizations, such as non-profit trade organizations, professional societies, public incubators, private incubators, etc.;
  • Seamless methods of operation of projects across multiple universities, through development and utilization of compatible Internet-based networking/collaboration tools and approaches;
  • Dissemination of shared knowledge to communities of practice, scholarly communities, and policy makers;
  • Methods for assessment and metrics of Hub/network performance and impacts;
  • Planning processes to accommodate emerging areas and future growth, including the requirement of an additional Affiliate per year;
  • Detailed plan for scale and growth; and
  • Collaboration strategy for the Principal and Partner institutions within the Hub and throughout the National Innovation Network.