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National Science Foundation
I-Corp - NSF Innovation Corps

The Innovation Ecosystem & Network

The people, institutions, policies and resources that promote the translation of new ideas into products, processes and services are generally recognized to comprise the innovation ecosystem.


Through the creation and strengthening of NSF activities and programs as well as through links with other government agencies, NSF will help foster innovation among faculty and students, promote regional coordination and linkages, and develop technology-based networks of researchers. Those contributions to the innovation ecosystem will penetrate deeply and broadly across the country to engage the most creative and consequential ideas and talents in the process of innovation. By instilling an understanding of innovation and providing opportunities for knowledge transfer between academia and industry, NSF will equip more faculty and students to think creatively to move discoveries out of the lab and into the marketplace for the benefit of society.

NSF's contribution to the innovation ecosystem encourages American colleges and universities to promote engines of innovation that operate in close partnership with industry across numerous disciplines. The ultimate goal is to extend America's historical reputation for ingenuity to a new recognition as a nation of innovators.

Opportunities for economic benefits from enhanced innovation capacity can increase the impact and reach from investments in basic research. Those efforts can nurture science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) talent that is capable of continuing to sustain U.S. technological leadership and economic vitality for generations to come.

NSF is able to leverage its network of researchers and universities to engage the most creative and consequential ideas and talents, and to attract industrial and economic partners for the progression of basic research into new innovations.


NSF is beginning to establish a National Innovation Network comprised of I-Corps Nodes and I-Corps Sites that will work cooperatively to build, utilize, and sustain the national innovation ecosystem. I-Corps Nodes will support the needs for innovation research and education and further enhance the development of technologies, products, and processes that benefit society.

The interconnected nodes of this network may be diverse in research areas, resources, tools, programs, capabilities and in geographic locations, while the network will have the flexibility to grow or reconfigure as needs evolve.

Together, the I-Corps Nodes will foster understanding on how to:

  • Identify, develop and support promising ideas that can generate value;
  • Create and implement tools and resources that enhance our nation's innovation capacity,
  • Gather, analyze, evaluate and utilize the data and insight resulting from the experiences of those participating in I-Corps, and
  • Share and leverage effective innovation practices on a national scale--to improve the quality of life for the U.S. citizenry.

I-Corps Sites will catalyze multiple, local teams to explore the transition of their technology concepts into the marketplace. The Sites will also offer infrastructure, resources and networking opportunities to serve the teams and to develop their local innovation ecosystem, which in turn will contribute to a larger, national network of mentors, researchers, entrepreneurs and investors.

NSF has partnered with VentureWell to foster the creation of the National Innovation Network. See more on the VentureWell website.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.