What We Do

UW NSF I-Corps Site Grants

Overview of UW NSF I-Corps Site Grants

Do you have an idea that you think has commercial potential? Do you dream of starting a company sometime in the future? If your answers are yes, then the NSF I-Corps program may be right for you.

What is the I-Corps program?

The National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) is a federally funded program to accelerate projects that are ready to move toward commercialization. As the collaborative innovation hub of the UW, CoMotion® has secured an NSF grant to establish an I-Corps Site on campus. The CoMotion I-Corps Site issues approximately 30 awards per year. These grantees learn to identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from academic research, and gain skills in entrepreneurship through training in customer discovery and via guidance from seasoned entrepreneurs. In addition to training, grant recipients receive $2,500 to fund their customer discovery process.

Why apply for an I-Corps grant?

  • Develop best practices for conducting customer discovery and identifying key stakeholders.
  • Learn, practice and hone your entrepreneurial skills.
  • Improve your odds for commercial success.
  • Understand market trends and needs in your technology area.
  • Expand your network of like-minded peers, instructors, investors, customers, and mentors.

Who should apply?

The I-Corps program is for teams that are ready for customer validation. You are ready to find out if you have customers who will pay for your product or service.

To be eligible for a UW NSF I-Corps Site grant, a team must satisfy the following requirements:

  • Your team must be pursuing a startup or commercialization opportunity with a science or technology base. Your team must be affiliated with the UW, although the intellectual property need not be assigned to the UW.
  • Your team must consist of at least the following three members.
    1. Entrepreneurial Lead. Typically a student, post-doctoral scholar, or staff member, with relevant knowledge of the technology and a deep commitment to investigate the commercial landscape surrounding the innovation.
    2. Business Mentor. Typically an experienced or emerging entrepreneur. If you do not yet have a strong mentor, let us know. We can help make introductions through our networks.
    3. Academic Lead. A faculty member. The Academic Lead must have an academic appointment that would normally qualify him or her to submit proposals or play the role of PI in subsequent submissions to the NSF.

In addition to applying for an I-Corps Site grant, teams are also encouraged to participate in other entrepreneurship training opportunities around campus, such as the UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship’s annual Business Plan Competition, the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge, and  the UW Health Innovation Challenge. Eligible teams should also consider applying for the NSF National I-Corps Team grants or Phase 0.

Selection process

Team and commitment. The first and most important goal of the UW I-Corps Program is to teach participants how to approach commercialization. We are looking for teams that are enthusiastic about technology commercialization and have clear goals that fit with what is taught in the program. When you apply, make sure that:

  • The team structure conforms to the eligibility requirements (see Who should apply section).
  • Team members have sufficient time and interest to participate in the I-Corps training and explore commercialization of the technology.
  • You can articulate a clear initial, preliminary vision for the commercialization of the technology. This will ensure a strong starting point in the I-Corps program’s customer discovery process.

Commercial Potential/Applications. The committee is looking for a thoughtful, and plausible, explanation of how your technology might be turned into a saleable product. Much of the program is dedicated to testing your hypotheses about commercialization. However, strong applicants will have some ideas about what a product would look like, who would buy it, and who their competitors would be. When you describe your innovation in the application form, make sure to:

  • Identify the customer you are targeting.
  • Articulate a clear hypothesis on the problems that the innovation will solve for this intended customer.
  • Identify who your key competitors would be.

I-Corps Selection Committee

The selection committee for the UW NSF I-Corps Site grants program is comprised of:

Program details

Selected teams go through a two-session Zap! training program and receive $2,500 to fund their customer discovery process. ZAP!  introduces participants to the Lean Startup methodology (see Program resources section) and techniques to conduct customer discovery through field interviews. Teams are required to conduct at least five customer interviews and to submit a final report detailing the work accomplished with the grant. Teams have until the final report due date to spend the award money (for an exact date see the How to apply section).

Wondering what comes next?

Eligible participants who successfully complete the five interviews within the ZAP! time-frame will be eligible for further funding through the BOOM program and may eventually apply to the National I-Corps Program.

How to apply

The application will be completed through the CoMotion Advisory Solution mentor matching database. Please create an account and complete the membership application to the best of your ability, making sure you address all the points listed below:

  • Team member names, roles and contact information.
  • The customer segment you plan to address initially and the problem that this segment is experiencing.
  • Your proposed solution to this problem as well as a brief description of your product or service.
  • Who your competitors are.
  • Select the NSF I-Corps Site award and ZAP! training in the response to the question “Are there specific activities or resources in which you are most interested?”
  • Complete the readiness self-assessment.

Application Timeline

Applications are now open!
Application closes: 10/19/18, 11:59PM
Funding Recipients Announced: 10/26/18
Kickoff Workshop: 10/31/18, 2-5pm
Student Zap! Training Session 1: TBD
Student Zap! Training Session 2: TBD
Final reports due: 02/01/2019

All training and events will be held at CoMotion HQ, 3rd floor (Directions here)

Program resources

Past grantees


A-Alpha Bio
David Younger, Bob Lamm, Eric Klavins, David Baker

A-Alpha Bio offers a novel more precise way to evaluate how drugs are likely to interact with their surroundings. By measuring the extent and nature of protein to protein interaction, it is able to predict more accurately than current technology whether or not the drug may be counteracted by the biome in the patient’s body.

Di Sun, Karl Böhringer, Mike Robinson

Dust can reduce solar panel efficiency by up to 35 percent and current cleaning systems can be expensive and cumbersome to use. Aquapel is a self-cleaning coating technology which repels oil and water and reduces dust accumulation.

Katharina Reinecke, Manuel Nordhoff

Using itemized data, Augury is a computer program that is able to predict whether new websites will be perceived as appealing, trustworthy and usable by their target users.

Biomimetic Intelligence
Mehmet Sarikaya, Berk Ustundag

Mimicking the way the human brain stores information, this machine learning technology is capable compressing groups of files of similar types for storage.

Albert Nguyen, Jizhe Sun, Eli McCormick, Ana Silvera, Purushothaman Padmanabhan

This team designed a device that allows for easier and cleaner connection between the various parts involved in performing home dialysis. This device lowers the risk of infection for patients and simplifies the process, overall improving patients’ quality of life.

Emerald Snake Media
Claire Jennings, Jason Pace, Lisa Seacat Deluca

This team is producing computer science picture books for children using computer language to help them understand the world in which they are growing up.

William Zhou

With sustainability in mind, this team invented a set of smart garbage cans that can give feedback to the user on where to throw individual pieces of waste and educate them on waste production generally.

Tom Malone, Mark Pedro, Kevin Dibble

This team has developed a system capable of autonomously maintaining a facility’s inventory using a combination of drones, robots and stationary devices. This allows for supply chain optimization and immediate response to security breaches.

Vishaal Diwan, Dana Scott, Nicole Simon, Andrew Fry

The HandiMaps application maps the inside of venues strictly based on accessibility and allows those with a disability the freedom and flexibility to enjoy each and every outing on their terms.

James Joslin

MarineSitu offers advanced marine monitoring technology services that help companies fulfill their regulatory obligations for environmental monitoring.

Greg Newbloom, Lilo Pozzo

Membrion created a highly versatile filtering membrane. This technology has potential applications in various industries by improving performance of batteries, water purification, food processing or pharmaceutical production alike.

Oli Fitness
Alexander Orozco, Charlton Smith, Chris Dejarlais

Oli is a software based personal training program that guides users looking to do weightlifting. It provides a low cost solution to people interested in that activity and decreases the risk of injury from inadequate handling or body positioning.

Quinton PHSH
Kenza Coubrough, Elizabeth Halsne, Justin Meith

This device improves support and comfort for patients with abdominal hernias. Current devices tend to be uncomfortable and offer less support.

Rashomon Security
Ian Smith, Tadayoshi Kohno

This technology provides a reliable solution for companies to delete their sensitive data from public cloud servers.

Patrick Aubin, James Burke, Chris Richburg

For the 9 million Americans with knee arthritis and knee pain that require the use of a cane, SnapCane reinvents the cane by providing user feedback to encourage proper use, reduce knee pain and delay need for joint surgery.

Team Brewscience
Travis Guterson, Reagan Stovall, Andrew Gates, Andrew Klonitsko, Matthew Tolentino

By measuring the specific gravity of various liquids both cheaply and accurately, this team can improve the brewing process.  The current measurement method is less accurate and requires a discerning eye.

Team Swarm FX
Ashraf Faraj, Lilo Pozzo, Angela Kimber, Abdul-Hadi Jmaileh, John Gangi, Zoe Kootstra, Dilraj Bal, Kibaek Jeong, Lenny Lin, Hirotoshi Maeda, Anya Raj, LJ Yan, Emma Hohenstein, Taylor Banks

This team has developed a new more eco-friendly type of foam to fight wild fires. It is also lightweight and compactable enough to be transported and released by drones.

Team Traffigram
Sungsoo Hong, Mania Orand, Mia Suh, Rafal Kocielnik, Min-Joon Yoo, Thana-Pn Punkasem

Based on research showing improved decision-making, Traffigram is an interactive map system that allows users to choose among several destinations according to the time it would take them to get there. Current technology does not offer a one-glance comprehensive view of time-to-destination for multiple destinations.

Rachel Umoren, Megan Gray, Taylor Sawyer, Patrick Motz, Caitlin Esworthy, Jennifer Kett, David Woodrum, Douglas Danford

Using augmented reality, VANESSA is a training platform designed to improve training of physicians looking to develop expertise in prenatal counseling. Current training lacks patient diversity and availability VANESSA offers.


6ixS Vascular Solutions
Isaac Lam, Melissa Gile, Nicholas Zhen Hung Soo, Jason Dang, Anna Nordstrom, Ellyce Shulman

By creating a synthetic vascular graft that heals completely into a native vessel, this team can vastly improve the outcome of vascular surgeries. The most prevalent synthetic graft in the market for hemodialysis currently has a success rate of only 50 percent over a one-year period.

Bio-methane production units
Kevin Cussen, Sara Brostrom, Sameer Dawande, Sam Wright, Stacy Vautour Hanks, KaiQing Zhu

By creating and installing bio-methane production units in homes, indoor biomass pollution will be reduced. Indoor pollution created by households using biomass (charcoal, wood and dung) is the leading cause of death in India.

Brain tissue displacement detection device
Peter Chiarelli, Devon Griggs, Maitham Naeemi, Michael Lenning

This non-imaging ultrasound device that can detect the point of the largest brain tissue displacement due to blood pooling in the cranium better and faster than current techniques (including CT scans).

Diabetics breath analyzer
Danling Wang, Qifeng Zhang

Patients with diabetes currently monitor their health by using finger pricks and blood tests. This team is developing a low-cost, portable breath analyzer using materials with a sensitive response to acetone.

Ryan Ahearn, Leila Asfari, Tessa Gomes, Jack Kamel, Emraj Sidhu, Marene Miley, Paul Denisenko

Eta1 decreases greenhouse gas emissions by using Heat Energy Return (H.E.R.) to improve the performance and fuel efficiency of any gasoline or diesel-powered vehicle.

Christian Taylor, Ian Turner, Justin Lee

FitTraction is a web and mobile application that is going to revolutionize the fitness industry by improving motivation, accountability, and engagement resulting in higher member retention rates, more people involved in training, and healthier individuals.

Geo-tagged social media usage
Korey Padilla, Thomas Kuljam, Jim Thatcher

By using geo-tagged food and drink-related posts and aggregrating the posts into one place, customers and restaurants are able to access a wider variety of reviews.

Rucha Nimbalkar, Damiene Stewart, Jumana Karwa, Samir Sbai, Xinhe Wang, Sri Hari Vignesh, Pooja Vade

iTrajectory uses GPS to track the user’s trajectory over time, then combines that trajectory information with social media usage.

William Canestaro

The Institute for Protein Design has developed a novel therapeutic enzyme, KumaMax, which benefits patients with Celiac disease by cleaving the immunogenic region of gluten in the patient’s stomach.

Kevin Fukuhara, Vikas Singh, Nihal Uppugunduri, Saket Potluri, Jacob Jagodinski

OstomyTech’s Individualized Wafer Cutting System (IWCS) is a stoma management system including a smartphone application and a personalized wafer service, which creates personalized stoma wafers that are safer than current self-serve stoma wafer cutting system.

Non-invasive IOT blood pressure measurement
Jared Herdlevar, Jeffery Lytle, Willie Jensen, Mindy Huynh

Data is collected through an IOT device using pulse transit time, which is able to be analyzed and collected.

Smart Charger Pro
Nannan Jiang, Niccolo Fortes, Samson M. Smith, Yutian Qian

The Smart Charger Pro charges electronic devices with optimal and customizable charging time by creating a longer lasting charge and better preserved battery quality.

Student-focused computer voice commands
Ren-Wei Larry Chang, Mae Oreiro, Javier Serrano, Jonathan Suh, Mark Dela Rosa, Huy Ngo

This team bridges the gap between students with impaired vision and other disabilities by creating an automated voice interpretation software beyond what current technologies offer.

Travel and travel planning application
Aaron Joya, Sahith Cheera

By developing a mobile application allowing customers to find pre-established routes in a specified travel destination, customers are able to travel plan more easily.

Brian Stuart, Zach Sulauf, Moe Malakoutian

Triangul8 is a simple, icebreaking social game that fosters communication and strategic thought between two people or two couples and is played online or using mobile devices.

Z-ion+ Technology
Ruying Chen, Sabrina Kamran, Marvin Mecwan, Marleny Santos

Z-ion+ long-lasting grafts have coatings that prevent blood clots. Currently, 75 percent of grafts fail within two years of implementation. Z-ion+ Technology solves this issue.

Contact us

CoMotion at University of Washington
4545 Roosevelt Way NE, Suite 400, Seattle, WA 98105