Lessons Learned: Research Benefits and Beyond Associated with Participating in the NSF I-Corps™ Customer Discovery Program
Technology & Innovation
The purpose of this study is to communicate lessons learned and benefits (which go beyond assessing commercial viability) from faculty principal investigator participation in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) Customer Discovery National Teams Program. The NSF I-Corps Customer Discovery National Teams Program markets itself as a program that "prepares scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the university laboratory and accelerates the economic and
... cietal benefits of NSF-funded, basic-research projects that are ready to move toward commercialization." However, there is so much more to be gained by program participants. Unfortunately, researchers wouldn't know this unless they personally participated in the program or received insights from someone who has completed the program. This study aims to respond to the following research question: How does participation in the NSF I-Corps Customer Discovery Program benefit faculty principal investigators? This study integrates both secondary data, using VentureWell's data file and code book, which was developed as an assessment tool for the NSF I-Corps National Teams Program, and autoethnography, whereby the authors use a qualitative research approach to self-reflect upon their own experiences conducting customer discovery on energy-focused technologies. Findings show there is much to be gained by program participants, including improvements in overall career success attributes, such as learning, mentoring, and research capabilities. In addition, the results show faculty researchers how they can recreate the process on their own.