Please note that the timeline for the SPARK program have changed for the 2019-2020 (FY20) 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 SPARK competition is organized into a two-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 reviewed to evaluate the project’s scientific merit and commercial potential. Reviews will be conducted by a team of UConn faculty who have experience with the commercialization process. The proposals which receive the strongest reviews, taking both scientific merit and commercial potential into account, will be selected for funding.
Important Dates (all due dates by 12 noon) –
- 6/15/2020 – FY20 program opens.
- 7/24/2020 2-Page Letter of Intent. Click here for LOI submission details
- Week of 9/26/2020 (revised) Invitations to submit full proposals will be sent.
- 11/2/2020 (revised) Full Proposal deadline (by invitation)
- Award Notifications are expected in December
- The OVPR anticipates funding up to 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 one year in duration, unless compelling justification for an extended 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 using the IFP Project Change form.
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: a project-related UConn patent or patent application exists, a UConn invention disclosure has been submitted to Technology Commercialization Services, or it is anticipated that IP will be generated and disclosed as 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 SPARK project.
- Past SPARK Winners: Projects that have been previously funded by SPARK are not eligible for additional SPARK funding. Faculty may apply for SPARK funding for projects that are distinct and independent of past SPARK awards. All past SPARK awardees are asked to consult with the program director prior to submission to ensure eligibility.
SPARK LOIs and Proposals will be scored based on the following criteria:
Market Need Addressed
- Is there a clear market need identified in the proposal?
- Is the innovation proposed going to satisfy the unmet consumer, industry or medical need?
- Does the proposal include market data and an estimate as to what share of the market the innovation may realistically capture?
Innovation and Novelty
- Is the proposed innovation novel?
- Is there existing or the potential for intellectual property protection?
- Does the innovation solve the unmet need differently (e.g., better, faster, cheaper) than the current state-of-the art?
- Is the innovation a disruptive technology or an incremental improvement over the current state-of-the art?
- Will the proposed experiments result in near term commercialization opportunities through partnership, licensing or start-up formation? If not, will significant additional experimentation and/or expense be required to generate such opportunities?
- Are there obvious potential licensees?
- Is there already a commercial partnership in place or an expressed interest from a prospective partner?
- Is there an existing UConn start-up based on this innovation?
Scientific Merit and Feasibility
- Is the experimental design technically sound?
- Does the investigator/team have appropriate expertise and facilities?
- Can the proposed experiments be completed in one year?
- Will the proposed experimental design provide enough data/results to further the commercial appeal of the innovation?
SPARK awardees agree to provide regular progress reports to the OVPR during and after the award period. Reports fall into two categories:
- Mid-project Milestone Update: at the midpoint of your SPARK award period (usually 6 months in), you will be asked to report on progress toward project milestones. Based on this report, the OVPR will determine whether sufficient progress has been made to release the second half of the SPARK funds.
- Annual Reports: Recognizing that investments made by the OVPR can often take some time to produce their full results, we will be asking that all recipients of OVPR Internal Funding, including SPARK, submit annual reports over the life of the project. This will allow us to better understand the impact of internal funding and make the case for it continuing / increasing. You will receive an email request at the start of the fiscal year following the completion of your award period. We’ll be interested in hearing about the results of your project, the significance of those results, and gathering statistics about graduate students supported, publications, external grants / patents received, other projects launched, etc. Other questions may also be included as needed. The OVPR may request updates annually for up to five years following the end of the award period to track the development of the project longitudinally.
The SPARK program is jointly administered by OVPR Technology Commercialization Services and Internal Funding Program.
Dr. Greg Gallo
Director, Technology Transfer
OVPR Technology Commercialization Services
Program point of contact (Contact for information on program/process, application status, award management/extensions)
Dr. Matt Mroz
Internal Funding Coordinator