NSF Innovation Corps Hubs Program (I-Corps™ Hubs)

Funding Agency:
National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) seeks to further develop and nurture a national innovation ecosystem that guides the output of scientific discoveries closer to the development of technologies, products, processes, and services that benefit society. The goal of the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Program, created in 2011 by NSF, is to reduce the time and risk associated with translating promising ideas and technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace, to increase the economic competitiveness of the United States, to encourage collaboration between academia and industry, and to train NSF-funded faculty, students, post-docs, and other researchers in innovation and entrepreneurship skills. The I-Corps Program utilizes experiential learning of customer and industry discovery, coupled with first-hand investigation of industrial problems and processes, to quickly assess the translational potential of inventions. The I-Corps Program is designed to support the commercialization of so-called "deep technologies," i.e., those based on fundamental discoveries in science and engineering. The I-Corps program addresses the skill and knowledge gap associated with the transformation of promising basic research outcomes into deep technology ventures (DTVs).

In the program's initial phase, I-Corps Nodes and Sites were funded separately to serve as the backbone of the National Innovation Network (NIN). Previous solicitations for NSF I-Corps Nodes and NSF I-Corps Sites have now been archived. A solicitation for a new operational model, the I-Corps Hubs Program, was introduced in 2020 and replaced funding for Nodes and Sites.  This revised I-Corps Hubs Solicitation has been informed by feedback received from the community and lessons learned over the first ten years of the I-Corps Program.

In 2017, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA, Public Law 114-329, Sec. 601) formally authorized and directed the expansion of the NSF I-Corps Program. Through this solicitation, NSF seeks to continue to evolve the current structure, in which NSF I-Corps Teams, Nodes, and Sites are funded through separate programs, toward a more integrated operational model capable of sustained operation at the scope and scale required to support the expansion of the NSF I-Corps Program as directed by AICA. In this more integrated model, I-Corps Hubs, comprising a Lead and initially seven Partner institutions, form the operational backbone of the NIN. Each Hub is funded through a single award, and the term "Hub" refers to a consortium of institutions identified in a proposal responding to this solicitation, including the Lead and Partner institutions.

The I-Corps Hubs Program will support proposals from former Nodes and Sites (Track 1) and institutions new to I-Corps (Track 2).

I-Corps Hubs are consortia of institutions of higher education spanning distinct geographic regions with common goals and challenges to collaborate to provide entrepreneurial training to members of the scientific community (students, postdocs, faculty, and other researchers). These collaborating institutions participate in a Hub to achieve operational excellence and to facilitate interactions with stakeholders in their entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem. Each Hub has a Lead institution to oversee operational management of the consortium and seven initial Partner institutions that contribute to the success of the Hub objectives, activities, and expected outcomes. A Lead institution may be a current or former I-Corps Node or Site (Track 1), or they may be entirely new to the I-Corps program (Track 2).

Hubs are required to add at least one New Partner Institution (NPI) annually.  NPIs are institutions of higher education that seek to join an existing Hub.  Funding for NPIs will be provided through supplemental funding.  NPIs are expected to collaborate with the Hub and demonstrate that the proposed activities of the NPI are coordinated with the Hub’s objectives and expected outcomes. 

It is expected that a process for Hub Renewals will be announced at a later date and may provide up to five additional years of funding for existing Hubs that are able to demonstrate their regional and national impact on the innovation ecosystem.

Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization: 1. Organizations only may be a participant (Lead or Partner) in one proposal per deadline identified in this solicitation.


  • Duke Internal Deadline: Interested applicants from within Duke should contact dukeiln@duke.edu as early as possible.
  • Full Proposal Deadline Date:  May 11, 2022

Agency Website

Eligibility Requirements

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:

  • Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) - Two- and four-year IHEs (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US, acting on behalf of their faculty members. Special Instructions for International Branch Campuses of US IHEs: If the proposal includes funding to be provided to an international branch campus of a US institution of higher education (including through use of subawards and consultant arrangements), the proposer must explain the benefit(s) to the project of performance at the international branch campus, and justify why the project activities cannot be performed at the US campus.

Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization: 1

Organizations only may be a participant (Lead or Partner) in one proposal per deadline identified in this solicitation.

New Partner Institutions may only be named in one such supplemental funding request per deadline.

Who May Serve as PI:

The PI must be in a senior academic administrative role, at the level of Dean or higher, at the Lead (defined in Section II: Program Description) institution.

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.

Limit on Number of Proposals per PI or co-PI: 1

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

Amount Description

Estimated Number of Awards: 3 to 4

Up to 4 I-Corps Hubs will be awarded under this solicitation.

Anticipated Funding Amount: $45,000,000 to $60,000,000

NSF I-Corps Hub awardees will be supported at a level of up to $3,000,000 per year for up to five years. All funds are awarded to the Lead institution; Partner institutions receive funding as subawardees.

Estimated program budget, number of awards and average award size/duration are subject to the availability of funds.

PLEASE NOTE: NSF I-Corps Hub proposals must be submitted by a single Lead institution, with Partners listed as subawardees in the budget. Separately submitted collaborative proposals submitted in response to this solicitation will be returned without review.

Funding Type





Curriculum Development
Engineering and Physical Sciences
Environmental & Life Sciences
Social Sciences

Internal Nomination

Owing to the sponsor's restriction on the number of applications that may be submitted from Duke, anyone wishing to pursue nomination should submit the following materials as one PDF.

* A letter of support from dean/chair - 1 to 1.5 pages
* A 2 - 4 page description of your project
* A description of what you have in place so that reviewers can make an informed decision regarding your submission. (I.e. if you have been working on this proposal for X number of years and already have many components in place; if you have been working with the Program Officer regarding your proposal; if this is a resubmission and you have addressed issues with the past submission..."

* NSF Biosketch of lead PI

Please submit internal materials through My Research Proposal. (Code ILN)  https://www.grantinterface.com/Common/LogOn.aspx?eqs=ApVvmgXCk2Uj7AzWyDE...

Instructions for creating an account (if needed) and submitting your materials: https://www.ctsi.duke.edu/myresearchproposal


External Deadline

May 11, 2022