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UWM Research Foundation
Catalyst Grant Program
2017 Call for Proposals

Overview:  The UWM Research Foundation is pleased to announce the latest call for proposals in the Catalyst Grant Program. This round is supported by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the Richard and Ethel Herzfeld Foundation. These awards will be made to seed promising research and development in areas where UWM has the greatest potential to impact local economy through commercialization activities. Such information can be obtained through customer discovery processes such as NSF I-Corps (Innovation Corps), are sponsored by the UWM and UWM Research Foundation to assist researchers with their evaluations. Researchers that completed or are currently participating in the I-Corps site program using their Catalyst grant project idea will be automatically invited for a full Catalyst proposal.

This call for proposals is in addition to the recently issued call for proposals through the GE Catalyst Grant Program. Details of both programs can be found on this website.

Award Types:  The Catalyst Grant Program may award two different types of awards under this round of the program. In addition to catalyst projects to foster projects at their earlier stages, this round of the program may also make “Gap Fund” awards to foster development of further along the continuum toward commercialization. The different types of awards will be as follows:


  Catalyst Grants Gap Fund Awards
Objective: Proof of concept Prototype or commercial milestone
Review: Review by leading scientists Reviewers include industry/investors
Intellectual Property: Potential or existing IP Existing IP with license potential
Emphasis: Scientific aims Business case
Commercial: Commercial potential Go-to-market plan
Award Amounts: $50,000 to $60,000 Typically $10,000 to $30,000
Matching funds a strong plus

The Gap Fund Awards were created with an understanding that many projects initially seeded by catalyst grants, as well as other opportunities, may benefit from funds focused on development.  While catalyst grants rely on external scientific review, gap fund awards may utilize serial entrepreneurs and investors in addition to scientific reviewers to help judge projects most appropriate for gap funds.

Focus Areas: The Program is designed to focus on areas where UWM has the greatest potential to impact the local economy through commercialization activities including science and engineering. The program seeks to emphasize research areas that complement regional capabilities, including:
  • Biomedical Engineering– including biomedical imaging
  • Advanced Automation – including software, devices and sensors 
  • Materials - including advanced nano-materials
  • Biochemistry and Drug Discovery
  • Water - including advanced sensors, point-of-use technologies and sustainable solutions
  • Energy - including novel techniques for energy generation and sustainable designs
  • Healthcare - including software applications
  • Innovation Accelerator Partnerships - projects that leverage the resources of the newly opened UWM Innovation Accelerator to build partnerships and foster validation, development, prototyping and commercialization of ideas from UWM
  • Entrepreneurship - projects that help foster UWM's entrepreneurial culture and use entrepreneurship as a mechanism to advance commercial outcomes while helping educate an entrepreneurial workforce
  • Other - other program areas may be considered based on well demonstrated commercial partnerships
Commercialization and Intellectual Property: One of the goals of the program is to foster the development of intellectual property and the commercialization of UWM technologies. It is a requirement of the program that the proposed work be directly related to an active intellectual property matter with the UWM Research Foundation. This may include an invention disclosure already submitted to UWMRF, a new invention disclosure related to the proposal (new disclosures should be submitted in advance of the abstract deadline), an active patent application (provisional or utility application), an issued patent managed by UWMRF or an active copyright matter. 

New invention disclosures should be submitted through the UWMRF Inventor Portal at:

Process: Investigators will be asked to submit a short abstract of one to two pages. A limited number of full proposals will be invited based on assessment of the commercial and intellectual property potential by the UWM Research Foundation. Full proposals will be reviewed by external reviewers as described above. Final recommendations to the funding organization(s) will be made based on external assessments and commercial assessment by the UWM Research Foundation.

     Qualification Criteria: Qualifying abstracts must meet the following criteria:
  • Field of Study - sciences, engineering, healthcare, or other areas identified above;
  • UWM researchers - project is for UWM-based research;
  • Funding period - funding period shall be for up to one year; 
  • Amount of funding - project funding between $50,000 and $60,000 for catalyst grants and $10,000 to $30,000 for gap fund awards.  
  • Intellectual property - research must relate to an active intellectual property matter with the UWM Research Foundation (disclosure, patent application, or issued patent).  Investigators who do not currently have an active matter may submit an invention disclosure along with the abstract.    
Programmatic/Commercial Criteria: Qualifying grants will be reviewed by the UWM Research Foundation based on programmatic and commercial criteria. In keeping with the program’s goal of fostering economic development, invitations for a full proposal will be made based on the following criteria:
  • Intellectual Property - current intellectual property (disclosure or patent application), potential for future patents, freedom to operate, strength of potential intellectual property claims;
  • Market Assessment - total market size, addressable market, other market dynamics;
  • Licensing Potential - potential licensees, assessment of license revenue potential;
  • Corporate Partnerships - potential for corporate partnerships and/or startups, tie-in with regional industrial clusters.
Scientific Evaluation Criteria for Catalyst Grant Applications: Complete catalyst proposals will undergo scientific evaluation by external reviewers using criteria established for the RGI program. Scientific reviewers will be asked to prioritize all reviewed proposals and rank proposals against national standards (top 10%, next 40%, bottom 50%).
  • Quality - Excellence and novelty of concept, approach, and methodology; clarity and appropriateness of project plans; desirability and impact of potential results on the national and international scholarly community
  • Return - Return on investment (ROI) through extramural funding or commercialization [expectation: 3X requested seed funding from external sources, potential for intellectual property, licensing revenue, corporate partnerships, start up companies and other commercial return measures]
  • Risk - Availability of necessary skills and experience, likelihood of achieving the intended outcomes; probability of securing extramural funding or engaging in commercialization; and potential for self-sustainability after the seed investment phase
Investor Evaluation Criteria for Gap Fund Applications: Complete gap fund applications will be reviewed by entrepreneurs and/or investors. These reviewers will be asked to rank the proposals based on the following criteria:
  • Commercial Return - Ability of the project to advance a technology toward commercialization – through a key proof of concept, prototype development, cooperative research effort with a company or other means. Commercialization may be measured by completion of a license agreement, launch of a startup company or ability to secure outside investment.
  • 2/01/17: Call for abstracts
  • 3/2/17: Deadline for submission of abstracts - by 5:00 PM
  • 3/17/17: Invitations for full proposals issued
  • 4/24/17: Deadline for full proposals - by 5:00 PM
  • May 2017: Scientific review of full proposals
  • Mid June 2017: Final selection of proposals and donor approval.
  • Late June 2017: Target for notification of awards
  • Award period: Target beginning 7/1/17
Application Process:  Application materials are available on the left side of this webpage.  
Abstracts should be submitted in PDF form to: bradley-catalystgrant@uwmfdn.org. This short abstract should follow the template available on the UWMRF site and should not exceed two total pages. Budget, CV and WISPER record are not required at the abstract stage. Note budget instructions are available for guidance, but a complete budget is not required at this stage.

Confirmation: You should receive a confirmation that your abstract has been received within one business day of submitting it.  If you do not receive a confirmation email, you should contact the UWM Research Foundation immediately.

Questions should be directed to the UWM Research Foundation: Brian Thompson, briant@uwmfdn.org, 414-906-4653 or Audrey Salazar, asalazar@uwmfdn.org, 414-906-4657

UWM Research Foundation, Inc.
1440 E. North Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53202
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