START Preliminary Proof-Of-Concept Fund Program Overview
Through a generous grant provided by the CT Next Higher Education Fund, the University of Connecticut (UCONN) Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) is administering a new early stage translational research funding program called the START Preliminary Proof-Of-Concept (PPOC) Fund. Under the grant, funding will be made available to investigators at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU), Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU), University of Bridgeport (UB) and UCONN.
The program aims to support the preliminary validation of innovative early stage technologies that have possible commercial potential and is designed to bring those technologies to a stage that may be more attractive for additional later stage translational funding support. We invite proposals for the START PPOC Fund from across all disciplines for early stage projects that may one day result in inventions and technologies that address unmet needs and have potential for commercial application.
Process and Timeline – The START PPOC Fund competition will accept written proposals on a quarterly basis and selections for funding will be made solely on a review of the written proposals by a selection committee composed of representatives from CCSU, SCSU, UB and UCONN.
Important Dates (note: when dates below fall on a weekend or holiday, deadline will be the next business day at 9AM)
|Cycle||Submission Date||Award Notice||Project Start Date|
|Q1||July 1||July 21||August 1|
|Q2||October 1||October 21||November 1|
|Q3||January 1||January 21||February 1|
|Q4||April 1||April 21||May 1|
- The CT Next Higher Education Fund has committed funding for START PPOC Fund for up to three years, contingent upon continued success in achieving program milestones and objectives.
- START project awards will be up to $10K.
- Awards are intended to be for scopes-of-work that can be completed in one year or less.
- No cost extensions are possible for START awards, but are typically only approved when extenuating circumstances beyond the control of the PI exist.
The START program is available to faculty members with a primary, full-time appointment to CCSU, SCSU, UB UCONN/UCONN Health, within the following parameters:
- Projects should be translational in nature (i.e., cannot be basic research). Very early stage projects are eligible, but should nevertheless have an obvious downstream commercial application.
- The project need not have a related issued or pending patent or a submitted invention disclosure at the time of proposal submission.
- Projects that have been previously funded by START may be eligible for one additional award. To be eligible:
- PIs must submit a final report on the first START award before applying for a new award. This report will be reviewed by the selection committee before considering any new application.
- The new START application must propose a new scope of work. The same set of activities will not be funded twice
- PIs must submit a new, full application and compete for additional funding alongside new applicants. START awards will not be automatically renewed.
- Faculty members that wish to apply for START funding will need to secure all necessary approvals for commitment of effort, use of recombinant DNA, use of animals, use of human subjects, etc., as required by their respective institutional policies and guidelines and any relevant local, state or federal regulations. All necessary protocols will need to be in place before funds are released.
START Budget Guidelines
- Allowable costs: graduate student stipends/summer support, postdoc salaries, other research assistant salaries, associated fringe costs, instrument use fees, materials and supplies, contractual services (external consultants or fee-for-service providers). Other commercialization-related costs not specified here or in the not-allowed list below should be listed in the budget and justified.
- Not-allowable costs: faculty salary, large equipment acquisition costs, travel for the purpose of presenting research results, costs related to basic research aims, graduate tuition, any overhead or F&A.
- Any changes to the budget of an awarded project must be approved in advance by the START program director. Requests for re-budgeting can be made to email@example.com.
Note: All contractual services and materials and supplies must be procured following the awardee’s respective university purchasing policies.
START Proposal Details
Elements to include in the START proposal are included below. Applications exceeding the total page limit of 6 pages will be returned without review.
- Cover Page: Title of the project, Principle Investigator with contact information and team members
- Abstract: Description/summary of the project. (1 page)
- Proposal Narrative (2 pages)
- Description and background of the potential innovation:
- What problem or unmet need does the potential innovation target?
- Are there any currently available products/technologies that target the same problem or unmet need?
- If so, why is the proposed innovation is different from or better than those that are already available?
- What is the current market size for the potential innovation?
- What Technology Readiness Level (TRL) most closely describes the current stage of your innovation?
- TRL2 Concept defined and/or application formulated, analytical tools developed (applied research)
- TRL3 Experimental data demonstrates critical function (proof of concept)
- TRL4 Invention validated in laboratory environment (feasibility)
- TRL5 Invention validated in relevant environment (development)
- TRL6 Pilot-scale prototypical system validated in relevant environment (tech demonstration)
- TRL7 Full-scale system demonstrated in relevant environment (system demonstration)
- Preliminary evidence: Summarize any preliminary data available.
- Proposed experiments with project goals:
- What are your project goals and your experimental approaches to achieve those goals?
- How will achievement of your project goals help make the potential innovation more attractive for additional funding?
- Could the experiments, if successful, yield patentable intellectual property?
START Review Criteria
Proposals will be scored based on the following criteria:
Market Need Addressed
- Would the potential innovation satisfy an unmet consumer, industrial or medical need?
- Is there a clear market need identified in the proposal?
- How much additional research and funding would be necessary to bring the potential innovation to the market?
- Is the potential innovation novel?
- Would the potential innovation solve the unmet need differently (e.g., better, faster, cheaper) than the current state-of-the art?
- Would the potential innovation be a disruptive technology or an incremental improvement over the current state-of-the art?
- Will the proposed experiments help make the potential innovation more attractive for follow-on translational research funding?
- Will the proposed experiments provide enough data/results to move the potential innovation toward patentability and/or commercial opportunities?
- While still early stage, are there any obvious potential licensees?
- Is the experimental design technically sound?
- Does the investigator/team have appropriate expertise and facilities?
- Can the proposed experiments be completed in one year?
Innovation and Novelty
Funding and Commercialization Potential
Scientific Merit and Feasibility
- Final Reports: START awardees agree to provide a final report detailing project results, progress toward the project goals, any resulting manuscripts or publications and whether any intellectual property was generated, including whether an invention disclosure was filed with awardee’s university. Final reports are due within 30 days after the award period ends.
- Follow-up Reports: Recognizing that projects funded by START are early stage and will likely take some time to realize their commercial potential, we will be contacting recipients of START funding at the start of the fiscal year following the completion of each recipient’s award period to learn about the continued results of your project, the significance of those results, and to gather statistics about students supported, publications, additional grants received, intellectual property generated, other projects launched, commercialization activities, etc. This will allow us to better understand the impact of START PPOC funding and make the case for its continued funding beyond the initial three year period granted by CT Next.
START PPOC Fund Contacts
The START PPOC Fund is jointly administered by UCONN OVPR Technology Commercialization Services and UCONN Internal Funding Program.
Program point of contact
Dr. Matt Mroz
Internal Funding Coordinator
Dr. Greg Gallo
Director, Technology Transfer
OVPR Technology Commercialization Services