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SPARK Program Overview

Please note that the guidelines and process for the SPARK program have changed for the 2018-2019 competition.


The Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) SPARK Technology Commercialization Fund aims to support innovative proof-of-concept studies seeking to translate research discoveries into products, processes, and other commercial applications. We invite proposals from across all disciplines for projects related to commercialization activities. We are eager to identify and support UConn-developed inventions and technologies that address unmet needs and have potential for commercial application.

Process and Timeline

The 2018-2019 SPARK competition will be organized into a three-step review process. 1) Applicants are asked to first submit a brief letter of intent to familiarize the review committee with the projects. The applicants with the most competitive projects will be invited to submit full proposals. 2) All full proposals will be sent out for external subject matter expert review to evaluate the scientific merit of the project. 3) All full proposals will also be sent out for external review of the project’s commercial potential. Commercial reviews will be provided by industry/investor experts. The proposals which receive the strongest reviews, taking both scientific merit and commercial potential into account, will be selected for funding.

Important Dates

  • 2-Page (cover page plus project overview, as requested) Letter of Intent due by 9/3/2018 at 9AM. Click here for LOI submission details
  • Invitations to submit full proposals will be sent week of 9/17/2018
  • Full Proposals (by invitation) due by 10/22/2018 at 9AM
  • Award Notifications are expected in January/February 2019, depending on the timeline of the external reviews

Award Details

  • The OVPR anticipates funding 8 projects up to $50K each ($25K at the start of the project with an additional $25K provided at the project midpoint, pending the completion of defined milestones).
  • Awards are for one year, unless compelling justification for a different award period is provided in the application.
  • No cost extensions are possible for SPARK awards, but are typically only approved when extenuating circumstances beyond the control of the PI exist. Extensions needed because of compliance delays or to allow financial transactions to finalize are also allowed. Adequate justification / documentation will be required, and the program director may request a revised budget and timeline before extensions are approved. Requests for extensions can be made to


The SPARK program is available to UConn/UConn Health faculty members, within the following parameters:

  • IP: Projects should have intellectual property at their core. To be eligible, one of the following should be true about the project: UConn patents exist, an invention disclosure has been submitted, or IP disclosure is a likely outcome of SPARK-funded activities.
  • Effort and Salary: Although no minimum effort level is required for SPARK projects, a PI must have departmental research time available during the award period or address in the application how they will handle the time commitment required by a SPARK project. Generally speaking, SPARK is only available to tenure-track, clinical, and APiR (Storrs) faculty. Research Professors / those whose positions are contingent on grant-funding (soft money positions, including UCH in-residence faculty) are not eligible. Faculty with potential SPARK projects that involve grant-dependent faculty should contact the SPARK program director before applying.
  • UConn Primary Appointment: SPARK PIs must be faculty whose primary appointment is at UConn / UConn Health. Faculty with primary appointments to CCMC or Jackson Labs are not eligible to apply. PIs with a primary appointment at a TIP company are also not eligible. Individuals who are not eligible to apply as a PI may be able to serve as a collaborator/consultant on an eligible PI’s project.
  • Past SPARK Winners: Projects that have been previously funded by SPARK are not eligible for additional funding unless approved by the program director. All past SPARK awardees are asked to consult with the program director prior to submission to ensure eligibility.