May 2013

About Epicenter

Epicenter is a partnership between NCIIA and Stanford University with the mission of unleashing the entrepreneurial potential of undergraduate engineering students across the US. Based at Stanford University's School of Engineering, Epicenter offers programs and support for faculty, students and academic leaders; conducts research on higher education models; and forms communities around entrepreneurship and engineering education.

NCIIA and Stanford are collaborating on four programs in specific:

  • Annual conference (visit the Stanford annual conference page here) -- Produced in partnership with Epicenter, NCIIA‘s annual conference engages attendees in bringing entrepreneurship and innovation learning into undergraduate education. The conference includes presentations from leaders in the field and an emphasis on content that educators can take home and use in their teaching.
  • Lean LaunchPad Educators Program (visit the Stanford Lean LaunchPad page here) -- Led by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Steve Blank and Jerry Engel, this workshop shows faculty how to teach the Lean LaunchPad process and Customer Development approach to new venture development.
  • Pathways to Innovation (visit the Stanford Pathways to Innovation here)-- designed to help institutions transform the experience of their undergraduate engineering students. The program, created and run by Epicenter, helps teams of faculty and university leaders fully incorporate innovation and entrepreneurship into a range of courses as well as strengthen co- and extra-curricular offerings.
  • University Innovation Fellows (visit the Stanford Student Ambassadors page here) -- NCIIA and Epicenter have joined forces to provide new opportunities for students across the country as part of the University Innovation Fellows Program. Fellows, nominated by their deans and faculty, catalyze innovation on their home campuses by holding events and creating networks that inspire and foster student entrepreneurship.


Training overview

NCIIA has several training programs designed in partnership with our funders.

  • I-Corps – Offers select participants from US academic laboratories the opportunity to participate in a special, accelerated version of Stanford University's Lean LaunchPad course. For NSF grantees only.
  • Xcelerator – Provides training and mentoring on entrepreneurship and commercialization to USAID and Grand Challenges grantees to increase the likelihood that their innovations will succeed. For USAID grantees only.
  • Research to Innovation (R2I) – A training program for university researchers that provides them with the skills, tools and roadmap to successfully translate their research into commercially valuable innovations. Open to all faculty, students, post-docs, tech transfer officers and academic center leaders.

Faculty overview

If you're here to look for funding for your transformational course or program, you've come to the right place.

We support faculty efforts to strengthen existing programs and build new courses in invention, innovation and technology entrepreneurship.

Our two grant offerings are:

Are you leading a team of students that is developing a breakthrough technology? Apply to participate in our E-Team Program, which provides funding of up to $75,000 and training to move new technologies to market.

In addition to our grant offerings, we have a faculty training program available, the Lean LaunchPad Educators Program. Led by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Steve Blank and Jerry Engel, this workshop teaches faculty how to teach the Lean LaunchPad process and Customer Development approach to new venture development.

Students overview

At NCIIA, our primary goal is to support undergraduate students like you.

We do that by providing funding, training, coaching and investment for projects that will have a positive impact.

Our student-related offerings are:

  • The E-Team Program – Funding of up to $75,000, along with training and coaching, to help move your breakthrough technology to market.
  • Biomedical competitions – We offer two annual biomedical engineering competitions for students, with first-prize winners receiving $10,000 each.
  • University Innovation Fellows – Become a University Innovation Fellow and help spread the word about entrepreneurship on your campus. Host events at your school and help boost the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
  • VentureWell – A venture development and investor readiness program intended to help NCIIA E-Teams develop their businesses to the point where they can secure their first formal round of financing.



Ecovative featured in New Yorker

NCIIA E-Team Ecovative was recently featured in a special issue on innovation from The New Yorker. The article, "Form and Fungus," by Ian Frazier, asks if mushrooms can help us get rid of styrofoam. Ecovative has been working on making that happen since receiving an E-Team grant in 2007 to develop mushroom-based, environmentally friendly home insulation material. They have since broadened their approach and are now looking into all-natural substitutes for a range of plastics, including packaging materials. 

Have your institution become an NCIIA member!

We enrich classrooms, curricula and campuses with opportunities for faculty and students to cultivate their skills and creativity and bring their ideas to market. Have your institution become a NCIIA member today to take full advantage of our opportunities. Students and faculty from member institutions are welcome to:

  • Apply for NCIIA grants, including:
    • E-Team Program grants of up to $25k (with an additional $50k investment opportunity), given to student teams looking to commercialize new technologies
    • Course and Program grants of up to $50k, given to faculty to integrate entrepeneurial skills into curricula
  • Attend NCIIA-sponsored events, such as Open 2015, our upcoming annual conference, for a reduced fee
  • Tap into a network of like-minded professionals to share ideas and educational strategies

Our offerings are available to faculty and students from institutions of all kinds:

  • Research institutions with active technology transfer programs
  • Colleges exploring the teaching of applied innovation
  • Engineering schools and business schools, large and small, committed to offering their students more creative, hands-on experiences 

NOTE: Our rates have changed! Annual membership dues are now $500 for colleges and $950 for universities. Membership applies to an entire institution. For example, dues are $950 for University X, not $500 for the University X College of Engineering.

View a list of active NCIIA member institutions

Become a member
Apply online
Download printable application

Already a member?
Renew online
Download printable application

Please allow 1 business day for membership renewal to be updated in our system. Questions about membership? Email us at or call 413-587-2172.

Membership FAQ

Q: Why the increase in membership rates?

A: NCIIA’s membership fees have remained unchanged since our inception nearly 20 years ago. The increase has been made to align fees with rising costs.

Q: What is the NCIIA member discount when registering for the annual conference?

A: NCIIA members receive a substantial $400.00 discount on the registration fee for Open 2015. (Early registration for membersis $999/Early registration for non-members is $1,399; Regular registration for members is $1,099/Regular registration for non-members is $1,499.)

Q: My institution only has 3,500 undergraduates; do we qualify as a college?

A: NCIIA defines colleges as institutions that primarily serve an undergraduate student body. If your institution offers substantive graduate level courses and more than 10% of the student body are enrolled at the graduate level, we would classify your school as a university.

Q: I’m handling registration for the Engineering Dept. If the Business School or Biomedical Dept. want to apply for an NCIIA grant, do they need to pay an additional (separate) membership fee?

A:  NO, the membership fee covers an entire institution. Individual programs and departments need not enroll separately.

Q:  Can my institution request a waiver from the FY 2014-15 fee increases?

A:  NCIIA will consider a waiver of the fee increase based on need for the 2014-2015 academic year only from current members. These requests can be sent to

Funders & Partners

The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance was established in 1995 with support from The Lemelson Foundation, the legacy of prolific American inventor Jerome Lemelson. NCIIA is a non-profit 501C3 and sustains its programs and offerings with the support of private and federal funding.

The NCIIA and its programs receive support from:

the Lemelson foundation - improving lives through invention
National Science Foundation United States Agency for International Development - USAID From the American People
Blue Sky Foundation epicenter - National Center for Engineering Pathways to Innovation


Our mission

We support technology innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education to create experiential learning opportunities for students and successful, socially beneficial innovations and businesses.

How we work
With a membership of nearly 200 colleges and universities from all over the United States, the NCIIA engages more than 5,000 student and faculty innovators and entrepreneurs each year, helping them to bring their concepts to commercialization.

The NCIIA ‘pipeline’ provides nascent student start-ups with early stage funding, help with business strategy development, mentoring, and investment. The NCIIA provides faculty with funding for courses and programs in tech entrepreneurship, opportunities for recognition, and entrepreneurship education training and networking.

Since 1995 we have:

  • Funded 341 experiential courses and programs at hundreds of institutions throughout the United States.
  • Funded 465 E-Team (innovative product development) projects that have resulted in more than 180 new businesses.
  • These businesses have leveraged more than $365 million in additional funding.
  • Engaged 2,000 students via E-Teams.
  • Partnered with government agencies and corporates to advance our mission.
  • Gained significant coverage from national media outlets and specialty outlets.

2011-12 by the numbers

  • 23 Course and Programs grants awarded ($606,640)
  • 37 Advanced E-Team grants awarded ($544,623)
  • 11 Sustainable Vision grants awarded ($446,774)
  • $1,598,037 total grants awarded


Open Meetups

Open Meetups are 75-minute, unstructured, participant-driven conversations centered on a particular theme or purpose. 

Instead of passive listening while one person delivers prepared remarks in front of a PowerPoint presentation, Open Meetups encourage active participation by all attendees. Discussion leaders will provide moderation and structure. They will set the stage and then allow discussion to flourish.

To submit your idea for an Open Meetup and to be a facilitator, email Tim Binkert at