I-POC Frequently Asked Questions

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What is Proof of Concept funding?

Traditional sources of research funding are typically intended for basic research. However, discoveries resulting from this research often need additional development to reach important milestones that are critical to commercialization. These milestones help "de-risk" a technology, making it more attractive to licensing partners.  Proof of concept funding helps bridge that gap by supporting activities such as:

  • building prototypes
  • conducting commercial feasibility tests
  • demonstrating mitigation of risk
  • addressing issues identified by industry that impair the ability to license or attract capital

How much is awarded?

Awards range from $10,000 - $50,000, distributed over a 12-18 month period.  Funding is released in tranches, meaning agreed-upon milestones must be met before the next tranche of funding is released.

Do the awardees receive anything in addition to funding?

Yes. I-POC award recipients are eligible for the following support services:

  • Consultations with one of the University's Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIRs)
  • Support from an OTM Commercialization or Marketing Analyst - each I-POC team will be assigned a commercialization analyst to provide market information such as: market analysis, IP landscape information, and industry contact information
  • Chicago Innovation Mentors (CIM) slot - CIM is a Chicago-based mentoring program that matches faculty teams with experienced entrepreneurs, executives, and domain experts. The University of Illinois is a member of CIM and POC teams may be offered a spot to present to the CIM network.

What are the eligibility requirements?

  • The applicant must currently be a full-time faculty member, or emeritus faculty with an active research program
  • The applicant must have an invention disclosure on file with the Office of Technology Management or file an invention disclosure simultaneously with submitting the pre-proposal
  • The commercial rights of the underlying innovation that the proposal is based on must not be exclusively licensed or encumbered with other obligations.
  • The intellectual property underlying the innovation must be owned by the University or co-owned by the University and another academic institution.
  • The project must be focused on commercial product development or testing. POC funding cannot be used for basic research.
  • Project milestones must be achievable within 12-18 months of the start of funding and within the requested budget.

What should be included in the letter of intent?

The letter of intent should be no more than 2 pages and include:

  • Project description: introduce the problem your invention or innovation solves, a high-level overview of how your innovation addresses the problem, and a brief description of your proposed topic.
  • Project Impact: what is the potential commercial impact of your technology
  • Milestones: 2-3 specific milestones that will be used to track the progress of your project during the funding period
  • Market Attractiveness: Identify the differentiating factors that will make your technology competitive in the marketplace.
  • Appendix: A maximum of one page of supporting data or references may be included and will not be counted towards the 2-page limit.

How are pre-proposals reviewed?

Pre-proposals are reviewed by an internal University committee made up of Deans, Directors, and select individuals from across campus. Pre-proposals will be evaluated based on the project's ability to successfully prepare the technology for commercialization within the scope of the proposed studies and within the requested budget and timeframe.

Please note: reviewers are not required to sign a confidentiality agreement prior to the review. Protected or proprietary information should not be included in the proposals, but applications must provide sufficient information for reviewers to make a determination regarding commercialization potential.

What are the next steps for successful pre-proposals?

The committee will invite full proposals, which will consist of:

  • Powerpoint presentation
  • Budget
  • Pitch Presentation

Full proposals will be reviewed by a multidisciplinary committee of scientists, industry professionals, and investors, from both within and outside the University.