Innovations in Food and Agricultural Science and Technology (I-FAST) Prize Competition

The aim of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) I-FAST prize competition (the “I-FAST Competition” or the “Competition”) is to develop and implement the Innovations in Food and Agricultural Science and Technology (I-FAST) Program. USDA NIFA in partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) to provide entrepreneurship training to USDA NIFA grantees under this I-FAST program.

General Information

The goal is to identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from NIFA supported academic research. Selected USDA NIFA I-FAST project teams will have the opportunity to concurrently participate in the educational programs with NSF I-Corps awardees. Over a period of six months the USDA NIFA supported teams in the I-FAST program will learn what it will take to achieve an economic impact with their particular innovation. The final goal of the I-FAST Competition is to facilitate technology transfer of innovations that can make an impact in the marketplace and the global economy.


Competition Submission Period – Pre-Application and Evaluation Interviews:

  • Pre-Application Open Period begins August 3, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. ET and ends September 8, 2017 at 12:00 a.m. ET. USDA NIFA’s receiving computer set to Eastern Time is the official time keeping device for the Competition.
  • Pre-Application Evaluation and Interviews:  September 11, 2017 to September 14, 2017
  • Full Application Open Period begins September 15, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. ET and ends October 6, 2017 at 12:00 a.m. ET. USDA NIFA’s receiving computer set to Eastern Time is the official timekeeping device for the Competition.
  • Final Evaluation and Judging – Full Application: October 9, 2017 to October 11, 2017
  • Verification of Winners: October 13, 2017
  • Announcement of Winner(s):  October 17, 2017
  • NSF I-Corps Cohort Training for Winner(s): Winning team(s) will need to be available to travel to and attend one of the following NSF I-Corps training sessions with the following dates and locations:
Cohort Training #1: Seattle, WA
Kickoff (on-site): January (arrive 16) 17-19, 2018
Web sessions (online): Thursdays 1-4pm ET – January 24, 31 and February 7, 14, 21, 2018
Lessons Learned (on-site): March 1-2, 2018

Cohort Training #2: Atlanta, GA
Kickoff (on-site): January (arrive 21) 22-24, 2018
Web sessions (online): Mondays 1-4pm ET – January 29, and February 5, 12, 19, 26, 2018.
Lessons Learned (on-site): March 5-6, 2018

Cohort Training #3: Washington, DC
Kickoff (on-site): January (arrive 28) 29-31, 2018
Web sessions (online): Tuesdays 1-4pm ET – February 3, 13, 20, 27, and March 6, 2018.
Lessons Learned (on-site): March 12-13, 2018

Competition dates are subject to change. Entries submitted before or after the Competition submission period will not be reviewed or considered for award. For more details please visit the website.

Prize Purse

The USDA NIFA I-FAST Competition prize purse will be a maximum of $400,000.  The prize purse will be divided among up to Eight (8) teams for a potential $50,000 prize for each team. Prize purse funds are required to be used by winning teams to fully participate in the NSF I-Corps program curriculum. USDA NIFA reserves the right to award less than the maximum number of available prizes.

Payment of the Prize

Prizes awarded under this Competition will be paid by electronic funds transfer to the academic/university institution the team(s) represent(s). Prize winners will be required to complete the required financial documents and forms to be supplied by NIFA to set up the electronic transfer. All federal, state and local taxes are the sole responsibility of the winner(s).

Submission Process for Participants:

The Competition will have a two-phase selection process. Teams initially will submit a pre-application. From the pre-applications, USDA NIFA and NSF I-CORPs staff will conduct interviews with the teams and select the teams that will be invited to submit a full application. From the full applications, USDA NIFA will select the winning team(s).

Participants will register for the Competition and will submit the pre-application to the Competition via Teams can enter the contest by submitting the pre-application through the “Submit Solution” function on, and then send the pre-application, with your name and contact info, to NIFA. The pre-application must contain the following information:

A three-page Executive Summary that describes:

  1. Composition of the Team and roles (EL, PI, Mentor) of the members proposing to undertake the commercialization feasibility research.
  2. Point of Contact information for ALL of the members.
  3. Relevant current/previous NIFA award(s) including award number, Title of the Project, and the NIFA program the award was funded under.
  4. Brief description of the potential commercial impact.
  5. Brief description of the current commercialization plans for the innovation.

Teams selected to submit a full application will provide the full application via through the “Submit Solution” function, and then send the application with your name and contact info, to NIFA. The full application must include the following project description information:

  1. I-Corps Team (one page limit)
    1. Briefly describe the I-Corps team and provide rationale for its formation, focusing on members' entrepreneurial expertise, relevance to the innovation effort, and members' experience in collaborating on previous projects.
    2. Include point of contact information for all team members.
  2. Lineage of the Proposed Innovation (one page limit)
    1. Provide the current/previous NIFA award(s) including award number, Title of Project and the NIFA program the award was funded under.
    2. Briefly describe how this research has led the Team to believe that a commercial opportunity exists for the effort moving forward.
  3. Description of the Potential Commercial Impact (two page limit)
    1. Provide a brief profile of a typical customer of the proposed innovation.
    2. Describe the customer need that you believe will be met by the proposed innovation.
    3. Describe how the customer currently meets those needs.
    4. Your approach - What is the proposed innovation? How does it relate to the fundamental research already conducted under previous award(s)?
    5. How much do you think a customer would pay for your solution?
  4. Brief description of the project plan (one page limit)
    1. Current Status - In what stage is the development: proof-of-principle, proof-of-concept, prototype (alpha, beta), etc...
    2. Provide a brief description of the proof-of-concept or technology demonstration that will be provided at the end of the project.

The total page limit for the project description full application is five (5) pages. From the teams submitting full applications, a maximum of eight (8) teams will be selected as winners to enter into the I-FAST Program. 


Changes or updates to the Competition rules will be posted and can be viewed on the NIFA website. Questions about the Competition can be directed to Scott Dockum, or Olivia Moreno.

Program Type:
Prize Competition
Scott Dockum

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