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Proof of Concent Grant

SUCCESS STARTS WITH GREAT IDEAS

Virginia Tech proof-of-concept program fuels development of
early-stage technologies from research to commercialization.

Please note: Round 5 of the POC grant opens December 1, 2023.  The deadline to submit is January 31, 2024 at 11:59PM.

The Proof-of-Concept (POC) Program combines early-stage commercialization grants and complementary resources to assist Virginia Tech researchers who want to increase the impact of their research and actively pursue the potential commercialization of technologies emerging from their labs. The POC Program provides competitive grants up to $50k and associated resources support these early stage activities.

The POC program is offered by LAUNCH, The Center for New Ventures with grant funding administered by Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties (VTIP). Learn more about the POC program, eligibility, and how to apply below.

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INVENT

Invention disclosure is the starting foundation for Virginia Tech proof-of-concept activities

EXPLORE

POC activities seek evidence of commercial potential and validation of a path to market

STARTUP!

Elevate the societal and economic impact from your research and explore the possibilities in creating a startup

POC GRANT

POC Program Benefits

Many technological breakthroughs from laboratory research never leave the lab due to the lack of funds needed to support activities that begin the translation of lab-to-market. These activities are generally outside the scope of basic research funding. Existing companies and investors are unwilling to fund them due to the high level of risk and uncertainty associated with such nascent technologies. This divide forms a “gap” between public research funding and early stage commercialization funding. The POC program is designed to help fill that gap.

Virginia Tech’s POC program supports activities intended to reduce the uncertainty of potential commercial opportunity.  What does the technology accomplish, and does it work? What problem does it solve and what new value will it create? Who would buy it and why?  Exploring these and other questions are part of the “proof-of-concept” process for new technology commercialization.  

The POC program is ideally suited for teams that include one or more eligible PhD students and postdoctoral researchers who are eager to take a leadership role in their proposed POC project and are willing to explore the possibilities of participating in a startup formed to pursue lab-to-market commercialization. POC projects will involve activities outside the scope of federally funded basic research, including “business” related activities. POC Project teams will be introduced to market-focused methodologies that enable validation of the commercial opportunity and the creation of business models. This exposure provides access to new skills and experiences valued in the innovation ecosystem. Additional benefits provided to POC Program awardees include:

  • One-on-one support and commercialization mentorship from LAUNCH, the Center for New Ventures
  • Experience generating business models applicable to your POC commercialization target and applying customer discovery methodologies to validate market assumptions
  • Opportunity to apply for additional VIPC (VA State) commercialization funding using your POC grant as matching funds

  • Opportunities to participate in innovation related programming and events offered by Virginia Tech’s Innovation and Partnerships and other regional innovation ecosystem organizations
  • Recognition as a POC Team grant awardee in promotional materials and the Office of Research and Innovation celebration events

  • Invitations to participate in professional development workshops offered by LICENSE, the Center for technology Commercialization and LAUNCH, the Center for New Ventures

  • Optional NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps) experiential training courses on the customer discovery process (I-Corps regional Short Course) and opportunities to apply for the  I-Corps National Cohort program and $50k of NSF funding.

  • Networking opportunities with other POC program participants

POC Grant Funding

The purpose of the POC program is to advance Virginia Tech technology commercialization generally and to support our research community in pursuing potential formations of technology startups from Virginia Tech research. POC grants are competitively awarded and provide non-dilutive funding. This means the funding is not in exchange for equity ownership in a new startup, if one is created. The POC grants awarded are subject to the following:

  • POC grants are not to be used to extend basic research and therefore are not required to go through the Office of Sponsored Research (OSP).

  • All awarded POC projects must be completed within twelve months from the date of first receipt of any applicable POC grant award funds.

How to Apply

Follow these steps to apply for a POC Program grant:

STEP 1:  Prepare and complete your POC project proposal;  

STEP 2:  Record a one minute MP4 video introducing your proposal; and

STEP 3: Apply and upload your proposal with one minute video in the short online application form.

PROPOSAL SUBMISSION DEADLINE: 11:59 PM ET, JANUARY 31, 2024

ANTICIPATED AWARD DATE: MARCH 22, 2024

Before you begin step 1, please carefully review the Preparing your Proposal section for POC grant eligibility requirements and follow the proposal format instructions and outline provided for preparing your POC project proposal. 

After completing your proposal document, you are ready to apply for the POC program. Save your completed POC proposal in PDF format ready to upload. Enter the APPLY NOW link in the drop-down menu to open the short application form. You must be logged into the Virginia Tech system to access the APPLY NOW application form. The application form cannot be saved, you must complete the form and upload your proposal in one session to complete step 3.

Select POC applicants may be asked to have a short meeting, up to 30 minutes, to expand on information provided in proposal or answer any questions. 

POC Grant Eligibility

  1. People. Each proposed POC project must have a team with a minimum of two individuals, a Project Leader and a second team member. The POC application form will ask you to identify these team members. Both must meet the following eligibility requirements: Current full-time status as Virginia Tech Faculty, post-doc, research staff or graduate student (PhD or Masters) engaged in funded research being performed at Virginia Tech. Undergraduate students are not eligible for POC grant funding. Other considerations for POC project teams:
    1. The Project Leader should be familiar with the research that generated the proposed POC commercialization opportunity.
    2. The Project Leader shall assume overall responsibility for completion of POC project activities and is responsible for assuring that all POC grant funds received are solely and properly applied to POC project activities.  
    3. The Project Leader is not required to be a faculty member. Often, successful POC Project Leaders are PhD students engaged in research related to the subject technology.
  2. Technology. The technology candidate for your POC project must be disclosed to VTIP before application submission, preferably no later than 30 days before the POC proposal submission deadline to provide time for recordation and preliminary assessment. Eligible POC projects must be based on inventive technologies properly disclosed in a Virginia Tech Intellectual Property Disclosure form. The POC application form will ask you to identify the VTIP disclosure ID assigned by VTIP. Please contact Grant Brewer, Executive Director, LICENSE if you have any questions about the invention disclosure process or identifying your disclosure ID.
  3. Commitment. Each team receiving a POC funding award is required to enroll in and complete an NSF I-Corps technology commercialization regional “short course” early in the POC project. The short course is offered remotely by several member universities participating in our Mid-Atlantic I-Corps Hub. There is no cost to participating teams. Learn more about the I-Corps Regional Short course and its benefits HERE . Additionally, periodic POC project activity updates will be required by LAUNCH.

Directions for Preparing your Proposal

Length and Format: Your written POC Project Proposal should not exceed 8 pages in length (excluding any references), single spaced, 12pt font, submitted as a pdf file. 

Proposal Outline: Your written POC Project Proposal should follow the following outline. We recognize there is high uncertainty in early-stage technology. We would like your proposal to articulate your vision for the commercialization of your technology by following the instructions below. For additional resources regarding startup terminology, please follow the link to the Mid-Atlantic I-Corps program website: CLICK HERE

  1. Title of your Proposed POC Project (≤ 10 words suggested).
  2. VTIP Disclosure ID No. – Project eligibility for POC grant funds requires prior submission of a Virginia Tech Intellectual Property Disclosure on the relevant technology to be commercialized. To help us accurately connect your POC proposal to the applicable disclosure(s), please (i) identify the applicable VTIP Disclosure Numbers assigned (ID example: #20-022), (ii) the date of your disclosure submission, and (iii) the title of the disclosure(s). If you are unsure of the assigned Disclosure No., contact VTIP at vtippatents@vtip.org or call Katherine Nicewander, VTIP’s IP Specialist, at (540) 232-8749.
  3. POC Proposal Team - Identify the Project Leader and team members for your proposed POC project (see eligibility and responsibilities above). For each, please include titles, departments, and a very short bio (you may provide links to more complete bios) that highlights any relevant entrepreneurial interests or experience. Please be parsimonious in the section (up to ¼ page total recommended).
  4. Technical Industry/Domain: Select one entry from the list below that best identifies the domain of the subject technology:
    1. Advanced manufacturing
    2. Aerospace
    3. Agriculture
    4. Autonomous systems
    5. Communications
    6. Construction
    7. Cybersecurity and cyber-physical systems
    8. Education
    9. Energy
    10. Environment
    11. IT (includes data science and analytics)
    12. Life and health sciences
    13. Modeling and simulation
    14. Nuclear physics
    15. Transportation
    16. Other (Please briefly describe)
  5. The Commercial Opportunity (2-3 pages): In this section, please describe the commercial opportunity as you now understand it by incorporating responses to the following prompts:
    1. What is the customer/market problem or need you hope to address with the technology? Alternative: what is the missing feature/function in the applicable industry?
    2. How big is this problem/need? (estimate the size of the problem)
    3. Trends - is the problem growing or contracting?
    4. How does your new technology address the problem? NOTE: The review committee will have access to your invention disclosure, so avoid a detailed description of the technology.
    5. What benefits does the technology provide?
    6. How valuable are these benefits and to whom?
    7. Are there alternative technologies that currently address this problem/need and how do they compare with your technology?
    8. What is the current stage of your technological development?
    9. Describe planned next steps for development?
    10. What are the biggest challenges to bringing this technology to market?
  6. Description of the POC Project (2-3 Pages): In this section, please begin with a short summary of the desired outcome you want to achieve from your overall POC project and the time to completion (must not exceed one year). Following this summary, break down your POC project into two sequential phases of activity (Phase I and Phase II). POC grant award funding will be distributed in two disbursements, one for each phase. Evidence of completion of phase I activities will be required before disbursement of phase II funds.
    1. For each phase of activity, please describe the following:
      1. What market related activities will you conduct (planned activities to learn about market and potential demand for your technology) Examples: attending a relevant industry conference, completing NSF  I-Corps short course, building a preliminary business model with mentors from LAUNCH, etc.)
      2. What technology related activities will you conduct (testing functionality, comparative analysis, building a prototype, etc.)
      3. What measurable milestones will you use to determine completion of the primary activities
      4. Anticipated time required for completion of the phase
      5. Identify anticipated project activity risks and contingency plans (if applicable)
    2. Your POC project project must include completion of a NSF I-Corps short course (necessary customer discovery interviews and related activities must be conducted over 3-4 week course). Please clearly identify which phase your team plans to participate in NSF I-Corps short course; the earlier this step is completed, the more beneficial it will be to the commercialization process. LAUNCH is currently anticipating to host a regional NSF Short Course to begin and end in April, 2023 and encourages applicants to incorporate that short course in their proposal.
  7. Proposed POC Project Budget (approx. ½ page)
  • Identify the total requested funds (up to $50k), and the amount associated with Phase I and Phase II activities.
  • The budget should summarize how POC funds will be applied to the activities you described in the POC Project Description

Restrictions on use of Funds: POC Funds cannot be applied to AY or summary salary for T&R faculty, but can be used to support graduate students or postdocs specifically working on the POC project activities. Funds can be applied to purchase components needed for POC prototypes creation, specifically applicable travel (ex: industry meeting or conference where customer discovery interviews can be conducted)

POC Review Committee Members

  • Andrea Hill- Associate Director, LAUNCH, Virginia Tech
  • Brett Malone- President and CEO, Virginia Tech's Corporate Research Center
  • Emily Lanier- Licensing Officer, LICENSE, Virginia Tech
  • George Dickos- Partner, K&L Gates (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • Grant Brewer- Executive Director, LICENSE, Virginia Tech
  • Hina Mehta- Director of University Programs, Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation (VIPC)
  • James Ramey- Principal and Fund Manager, VTC Innovation Fund, Middleland Capital
  • Jeff Reed- Willis G. Worcester Professor and Founding Director of Wireless@Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech
  • Mark Mondry- Director, LAUNCH, Virginia Tech
  • Robert Gourdie- Director at Center for Vascular and Heart Research, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, Virginia Tech
  • Roberto Melendez- Associate Director, LAUNCH, Virginia Tech
  • Rozzy Finn- Licensing Officer, LICENSE, Virginia Tech

VIRGINIA TECH ENTREPRENEURIAL RESOURCES

I-CORPS PROGRAM

REGIONAL ENTREPRENEUR RESOURCES