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Innovating for National Security

Innovating for National Security (i4NS)

i4ns-spring-final-pres-2023.jpgInnovating for National Security (i4NS) is a quarter-long program that offers U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) leaders an opportunity to collaborate with talented student teams to develop innovative solutions to their most pressing national security problems. Through student teams, the DOD is provided an avenue to connect with problem-solvers from academia, the private sector, and other non-traditional DOD partners.

The course provides student teams with a deep understanding of selected national security related problems and potential solutions which might be arrayed against them. Using the Lean LaunchPad Methodology the course encourages student teams to:

  • Solve complex real-world problems
  • Rapidly iterate solutions while searching for product-market fit
  • Understand all stakeholders, roll-out issues, costs, resources, and ultimate market / mission value
  • Deliver minimum viable products matching customer needs in a narrow window
  • Produce a repeatable model which can launch other potential solutions


Want to join the i4NS program?

Apply Now!

For questions, please contact


From Immersive Learning to Validated Insights

Through this course, you will work in a real life startup environment with team members from diverse backgrounds and expertise, network across different industries, and improve your public speaking and project management.  At the end of the course, you will have requisite experience commercial and national security-related companies and organizations seek in their future employees. 

The course is team-based with related work and study completed in teams. In addition to the instructors, each team will be assigned a mentor (an experienced entrepreneur or subject matter expert) and a contact from the problem sponsor at DOD.

At the end of ten weeks, you and your team will provide a solution to an existing problem provided by the DOD while learning to develop prototypes that match DOD users’ needs. 

The Innovating for National Security (i4NS) is not a product incubator for a specific technology solution. Instead, you will learn Lean Startup principles to gain a deeper understanding of selected problems, develop sustainable, user-centered solutions, and learn to work with the DoD and IC teams.

Hear more from past student participants and mentors.

Learn Lean Startup techniques for startup success and solve real problems.

Solve real life, pressing issues faced by US government agencies alongside field experts while learning and applying best practices of innovation and entrepreneurship

Tackle complex problems critical to the government around national security, health, energy infrastructure, cybersecurity, and AI/ML; develop new solutions with a team of industry and national security experts!


i4NS Program Details

Next Course: Spring 2024
Mondays, 4:00 - 7:00 p.m. PST
  • Location: Design & Innovation Building, Room 208
  • AIP 197: 4 units
  • 10 weekly class meetings (in-person)
  • Applications accepted on a rolling basis beginning December 2023

Application and Selection Process:

  • Check your eligibility at Academic Internship Program.
  • If eligible, complete the i4NS Interest Form.
  • Viable candidates will be notified for group interview.
  • Once final selections are made following the group interview, selected candidates will be given next steps.  

Join the cadre of innovation-ready workforce for national security jobs by learning how to address current technical challenges, gain innovation education and experience working with the Department of Defense!


Apply Now!

For questions, please contact 



The i4NS internship is open to all UC San Diego graduate and junior/senior undergraduate students in good academic standing. We welcome students from all disciplines to come together to show off the true power in the diversity of UC San Diego!

International students are eligible to participate. Participants are required to attend all in-class sessions.


Here is a past example of our curriculum.

Spring 2021

Module Date Lecture Topic Teaching Team
1 23 March  Introduction to Working with DoD/IC and Customer Development  TBA
2 30 March  Mission Model Canvas TBA
3 6 April Beneficiaries, Stakeholders, and Customer Discovery TBA
4 13 April  Value Proposition TBA
5 20 April Product/Sponsor Fit & Multi-Use TBA
6 27 April Mission Achievement TBA
7 4 May Buy-in Support/Development TBA
8 11 May Activities, Resources, and Key Partners TBA
9 18 May Costs & Operating Plan TBA
10 25 May Reflections TBA
10A 2 June Final Presentations  Teaching Team

Earn Academic Internship Credit

Enroll with the Academic Internship Program.

Internship Dates: March - June 2024

Application Deadlines


Submit Learning Agreement to AIP via InternLink 

  March 2024

EASy Request

  March 2024

Enroll via WebReg

  March 2024

Dates are subject to change.  Stay updated by visiting:


Send questions about AIP enrollment to the Academic Internship Program via the Virtual Advising Center.

Time Commitment

This course moves fast! The program includes assigned reading/videos, interviewing homework, weekly in-class lectures/discussions, and group meetings outside of lecture with sponsors. Teams will arrive on their first day having read the pre-calls material prepared to work on their chosen problem.

Recommended Prep: Customer Discovery Workshop

This workshop is not a prerequisite for the course, but attendance is highly recommended to better prepare for the i4NS course.

Why build something that no one wants? Don’t waste time and effort on the wrong idea. Increase your chance at success with our Customer Discovery Workshop! Customer Development is a process for questioning your core assumptions about an idea, business, etc. Your product or business idea fundamentally starts with an implicit or explicit assumption about three things- the customer, the problem, and the solution. At this workshop, you will learn interview skills, identify users and test out your assumptions and apply what you’ve learned. 

To learn how, register for one of our Customer Discovery Workshops: 

  • To be announced.